The WHL, Part 5: There was tragedy, lots of movement and marshmallow punches . . .

Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years.  The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .

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The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.

There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.

There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.

But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.

DougSauter

The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.

The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.

The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.

This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”

BryanMaxwell

Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.

Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.

In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.

There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.

bob cornell brandon wheat kings mvc
BOB CORNELL (Photo: Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame)

In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.

Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.

The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.

“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”

The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.

Broncos
When the Swift Current Broncos’ bus crashed on Dec. 30, 1986, the hockey world lost Chris Mantyka (left), Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger and Brent Ruff. (Photo: Swift Current Broncos)

Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.

EdChynoweth3
ED CHYNOWETH

“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”

John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”

There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”

Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”

Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.

“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”

As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.

And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.

Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.

On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.

On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.

BradHornung
BRAD HORNUNG (Photo: University of Regina)

Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.

Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”

Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.

As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.

Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.

April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.

And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.

The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.

EdStaniowski

John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with

Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.

And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.

The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.

“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.

Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.

“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”

That is exactly what happened.

There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.

On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.

Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”

Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.

On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”

Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.

GerryJames

With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.

On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”

One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.

On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.

For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.

Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.

JoeCelentano
JOE CELENTANO

The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.

On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.

On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.

The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.

The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.

On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.

The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.

Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.

“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”

In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.

Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”

On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”

Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.

TimSpeltz
TIM SPELTZ

In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.

Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.

The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.

Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.

A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.

Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.

On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.

Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.

It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.

“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”

On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.

Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”

Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”

There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.

The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.

On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.

Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.

There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.

The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.

Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.

 “This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”

TimTisdale

Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”

On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.

Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.

On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.

At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.

The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.

Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.

The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.

On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.

“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”

Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.

A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.

At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.

Kelly-McCrimmon
KELLY McCRIMMON (Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings)

On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.

There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.

On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”

The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.

Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”

Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.

On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.

Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.

Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.

On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.

The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”

JackShupe

The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.

On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.

There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”

DennisBeyak
DENNIS BEYAK

Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.

Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.

There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.

Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”

On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”

Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.

On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.

Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”

James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.

GerryJohansson
GERRY JOHANSSON

There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.

Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.

Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”

Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.

Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”

The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.

A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.

On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.

On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.

The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.

LorneFrey
LORNE FREY

On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.

Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.

One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.

—30—

COVID-19 steals Sasakamoose as family, hockey world mourn . . . Canada’s national junior team has positive players . . . BCHL’s Wild shuts down for now

Dorothy and I were in Penticton, B.C., on the evening of July 24, 2015, for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner.

Here is part of what I wrote afterwards:

The legendary Fred Sasakamoose was on hand to receive the Okanagan Hockey School’s Pioneer Award.

What a wonderful moment it was as a tremendously touching video chronicling Sasakamoose’s life was played and an emotional Sasakamoose made his way to the stage.

If you aren’t aware of Sasakamoose and all that he has done, get thee to Google and prepare to spend an hour or two.

At one point, Sasakamoose spoke to what was a thoroughly captivated audience about how lonely it was being an aboriginal — he is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation — on the way to the NHL.

On this night, Sasakamoose was anything but lonely. He was on the receiving end of two emotionally charged standing ovations as he made a roomful of new friends and admirers.

That is the kind of night it was, and I will long remember being a small part of it.


Hockey Canada, we’ve got a problem!

Hockey Canada announced Tuesday morning that two players who are part of Canadaits national junior team selection camp in Red Deer have tested positive for COVID-19. Both players are in quarantine at the team hotel.

As a result, Tuesday afternoon’s Red-White game was postponed and all other activities were cancelled for the day. Ryan Rishaug of TSN reported later Tuesday that “as of now nothing is scheduled for training camp activity (Wednesday).”

Head coach Andre Tourigny had said the coaching staff wanted to trim the roster by a dozen or more players after Tuesday’s game. That obviously didn’t happen. Chances are that some players will be sent home before a scheduled exhibition game against the U of Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday.

This is Team Canada’s second brush with the virus. On Saturday, a person described as a “non-core” member of the support staff tested positive. That resulted in an undisclosed number of people going into a 14-day quarantine, including assistant coaches Michael Dyck and Jason Labarbera.

On Tuesday, after news of the two players having tested positive, Rishaug tweeted:

“A key question is, how many players will be identified as close contacts? We don’t know if the infected players were playing in the games Saturday and Sunday. All close contacts must isolate for 14 days.

“Covid has wreaked havoc on Canada’s camp to this point. 14 players were late arriving for various Covid testing related issues, including Ridly Greig testing positive before camp. He has since joined the team after his quarantine ended.

“All of this happening with the back drop of rapidly rising cases in Alberta, and news coming later today from the Premier that could involve further restrictive measures being put in place. The next few days will determine a lot on what Canada’s camp looks like moving forward.

“Players and staff were tested before arrival in Red Deer, then tested again upon arrival. A 2x per week protocol then kicked in once camp was up and running. The first positive test of a staff member came as a result of the 3rd test they had taken.”

Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has his take on Team Canada’s situation right here.


The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets said Tuesday they have “had several players NHLrecently test positive for the COVID-19 virus.” . . . Frank Seravalli of TSN reported that a “significant” number of Blue Jackets “have tested positive . . . over the last 7-to-10 days.” . . . The players went into quarantine and the organization’s off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena were closed “beginning the week of Nov. 16.” . . . The NHL apparently continues to have its sights set on a Jan. 1 opening. But now there are outbreaks with the Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights. . . . Seravalli also reported that “sources say multiple family members of VGK players have also tested positive.” . . . Robin Brownlee of oilersnation.com wonders right here just how realistic a Jan. 1 starting date might be.


Blaming restrictions implemented by the state of Washington and the closure Wenatcheeof the U.S.-Canada border, the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild announced Tuesday that it is “taking a hiatus for the 2020-21 season.” . . . All Wild players now are free agents. . . . “The latest setback is not being able to train our players here in the state of Washington,” a Wild news release reads. “We are not opting out of the season we are being forced out because the United States and Canadian border are closed and (because of) the restrictions on gyms and ice arenas in the state of Washington.” . . . Kudos to Wild owner David White as Taking Note has been told that he is keeping the staff on the payroll. . . . There is a news release right here.


LightUp


In the QMJHL, the Charlottetown Islanders have had to pause their schedule for qmjhlnewat least two weeks. That’s because the Prince Edward Island government has withdrawn from the Maritime travel bubble. . . . With COVID-19 numbers rising in the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island announced Monday that they were withdrawing from the bubble for at least two weeks. That bubble had been in place since July 3. It allowed people to travel rather freely across the Maritimes provinces without quarantining. . . . P.E.I. implemented new travel restrictions on Monday at midnight; N.L. puts its restrictions in place on Wednesday. . . . On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia government also announced travel restrictions, so the QMJHL postponed seven games scheduled for this week in the Maritime Division.


“A shortened season, no playoffs and a $265,000 payment for litigation fees involved in a minimum-wage lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League pushed the Kitchener Rangers into the red for the 2020 fiscal year,” writes Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record. “The Rangers announced a net deficit of $83,736 at Monday night’s virtual annual general meeting, making it the first time in the past 25 years the Ontario Hockey League club failed to record a profit.

“Last year, the team made $335,233.”

It is interesting that the Rangers apparently have written off $265,000 for the settlement of that lawsuit. In the WHL, the Moose Jaw Warriors told shareholders that they are on the hook for $180,846 as their part of the settlement, while the Prince Albert Raiders said their share was to be $166,667.

The Swift Current Broncos don’t seem to have stated a figure, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes have yet to hold their annual general meeting.

Lethbridge, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Swift Current are the 22-team WHL’s four community-owned teams. As such, they are obligated to hold annual general meetings open to shareholders.

BTW, the afore-mentioned lawsuit was thought to have been settled for $30 million, but courts in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have rejected that settlement. So negotiations no doubt are continuing.


Bar


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

——

CBC News: Manitoba announces 476 new cases of COVID-19, its 4th-highest daily total since the pandemic began. It follows yesterday’s record high of 543. The province is also attributing 12 more deaths to the virus.

CTV News: Manitoba issued $126,082 in tickets last week for those not following health orders.

CBC News: Saskatchewan adds 175 new coronavirus cases — 70 of them in Regina and 28 in Saskatoon zones. That’s the province’s lowest new daily case total in 4 days and is below the province’s previous 7-day average of 218.

Regina Leader-Post: After reporting 175 new cases and 112 recoveries Tuesday, Sask. government cancels afternoon press conference.

CBC News: Alberta reports 1,115 new COVID-19 cases, 16 more deaths, for a provincial case load of 13,349 active infections.

CBC News: Premier Jason Kenney declares a state of public emergency in Alberta. Imposing new restrictions on social gatherings, religious services. No indoor social gatherings permitted in any settings for a minimum of 3 weeks. Will be evaluated in mid-Dec.

Mo Cranker, Medicine Hat News: Medicine Hat is up to 103 active cases of COVID-19. There are 123 recoveries listed in MH. . . . There are 39 active cases in Cypress County. There are 40 active cases of Forty Mile. . . . There are 171 active cases in Lethbridge. Brooks is at 46 active cases of the virus.

Richard Zussman, Global BC: British Columbia has shattered the one day COVID-19 record with 941 new cases over the past 24 hours. There have been 28,348 total cases of the virus in BC. . . . There are 284 people in BC in hospital with COVID. With 61 people in ICU. The hospital number is a record. . . . Another double digit day for COVID deaths. There have been 10 deaths due to the virus over the last 24 hours. There have been 358 deaths in the province from COVID. . . . The latest positivity rate on the BC CDC website is 6.6%. On October 6th it was 1.2%.

Keith Baldrey, Global BC: BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth on Global BC tonight with a message for anti-maskers: “Grow up, shut up and mask up.” I’d say that’s fairly clear.

CBC News: B.C. health-care workers plead for public to follow COVID-19 orders.

Global News: B.C. grocery story (in Nelson) hires security guard as anti-mask hostility grows.

CBC News: Ontario’s reporting error means (Tuesday’s) total case count is artificially low. Additional data: 14 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Ontario, 534 ppl are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, 159 of them in ICU, 91 on ventilators.

CBC News: Quebec reports 45 additional deaths due to the coronavirus, also diagnoses 1,124 new cases. That’s virtually unchanged from the province’s previous 7-day average of 1,162.

CBC News: Nova Scotia reports 37 new COVID-19 cases, highest since April 23. Province announces wave of restrictions for greater Halifax area, including gathering size limits, 25% capacity cap on the number of shoppers in a store, while restaurants and bars are restricted to takeout only.

CBC News: Nunavut has 10 new cases of COVID-19. Nine are in Arviat, on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay, where there’s now a total of 107 cases. There have been 375 negative tests in Arviat, which has a population of about 2,600. The other new case is in Rankin Inlet.

——

Keith Baldrey, Global BC: Brutal Washington state COVID-19 numbers today: 3,482 new cases, a record. 35 deaths. In the past week alone 119 people have died there and almost 600 people have entered hospital.

Oregon ArtsWatch: COVID-19 has claimed a record 21 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 847. The total number of Oregonians hospitalized and in intensive care with COVID-19 also increased. There were 1,011 new confirmed and presumptive cases, down from recent days.

FacesOfCOVID: 2,028 people died of COVID today in the United States, the first time since May that the daily death count has exceeded 2,000.

The New York Times: California reported 17,694 new cases on Monday, well more than it or any other state had ever done before, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, it has averaged 12,712 new cases a day — more than Maine’s total for the whole pandemic.

——

——

The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens have had at least 10 positive tests among players and staff since Sunday night. They are scheduled to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday. . . . Baltimore RBs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins won’t play, nor will DT Brandon Williams. . . .

To say that NCAA men’s basketball is a mess would be something of an understatement. . . . No. 1 Baylor has pulled out of a tournament in Connecticut that is to start today. Head coach Scott Drew tested positive. . . . Florida has pulled out of two games. . . . East Carolina, Indiana State and Akron pulled out of a tournament in Florida. . . . The start of Wichita State’s season has been delayed. The Shockers actually flew into Sioux Falls, S.D., for a tournament only to have seven team members test positive. . . . Rick Barnes, the head coach at Tennessee, has tested positive and team activities are on hold. The school reported multiple positives among “Tier 1 personnel, which consists of coaches, student-athletes, team managers and support staff.” . . . Gardner-Webb experienced at least one positive so pulled out of what was to have been Duke’s season-opener. . . . Ole Miss had some positives, including head coach Kermit Davis, so cancelled a three-game tournament it was to hold and team activities are on hold until Dec. 7. . . . The Florida A&M women’s team has opted out of the 2020-21 season. . . .

The 24-team Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, which had been hoping to open its season on Dec. 2, now is aiming for Jan. 15. The league’s return-to-play protocol includes games being played without deliberate bodychecking/intentional physical contact and no post-whistle scrums. . . .

Northeastern has shut down winter sports until Dec. 18 because of what the schools says is a “small cluster of recent COVID-19 cases that led to quarantining athletes on five varsity teams.” The men’s hockey team has cancelled or postponed six games. . . . The women’s basketball and women’s hockey team both experienced positive tests, as did the men’s women’s track and field teams. . . .

The U of Maine in Orono has shut down winter athletics through at least Dec. 8 “due to positive test results on campus, including individuals involved with the varsity athletic programs.” . . . All games for the men’s and women’s basketball teams and men’s and women’s hockey teams between Nov. 25 and Dec. 8 have been cancelled. . . .

The Minnesota at No. 18 Wisconsin football game scheduled for Saturday won’t happen. Minnesota has paused team-related activities due to positives tests within its program. . . .

Martin Pakula, the sports minister for the Australian state of Victoria, says the start of the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament “most likely” will be delayed. The tournament, which is held in Melbourne, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18. However, Pakula said it is likely to be delayed a week or two. At the same time, he didn’t rule out a longer delay.


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.


The Brandon Wheat Kings announced Tuesday that they have promoted Don BrandonWKregularMacGillivray to head coach, replacing Dave Lowry who joined the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach on Monday. . . . Lowry spent one season in Brandon. . . . MacGillivray has been on the Wheat Kings’ coaching staff for four seasons. . . . He has extensive coaching experience in junior hockey, including most of two seasons (1996-98) as head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. He also is a four-time winner of the MJHL’s coach-of-the-year award. . . . The Wheat Kings’ coaching staff also includes assistant Mark Derlago and goaltending coach Tyler Plante. . . . The team apparently is in the process of hiring another assistant coach.


Decision

Lynn Lake legend takes on the ‘Hammer’ . . . Remembering a fax from Rocky . . . The virus finds the QMJHL

When I was a hockey-playing teenager in Lynn Lake, Man., Steve Andrascik was THE MAN.

Two years older than me, he played two seasons (1967-69) with the Flin Flon Andrascik.Bombers, totalling 62 goals and 62 assists in 110 games. He also earned 230 penalty minutes as he sometimes rode shotgun with Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach. Steve was selected 11th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 12-team NHL’s 1968 draft — 24 players were selected over three rounds.

Steve would come home in the offseason and work in the mine. Competitive? Sometimes he would stop off at the fastball diamond on his way to work and pitch for one of the men’s teams . . . while wearing work boots.

Yes, he was a Lynn Lake legend.

As a pro, he played 77 games in the WHA and had stints in the CHL, SHL and AHL, finishing up with the Hershey Bears with whom, as I understand it, he was quite popular.

His NHL career consisted of one game, a playoff game in Madison Square Garden. After spending the 1971-72 season with the AHL’s Providence Reds — he had 14 goals, 10 assists and 104 penalty minutes in 74 games — the New York Rangers added him for their playoff run. On April 20, he was in their lineup for a 3-2 victory over Chicago in Game 3 of what would be a sweep of the Blackhawks.

The Rangers would lose the Stanley Cup final in six games to Bobby Orr’s Boston Bruins. Steve didn’t get in the New York lineup but he was along for the ride.

That brings us to the following tweet . . .

——

The tweet referencing the bout between Steve Andrascik and Dave Schultz reminded me of a WHL-related story from a few seasons back.

This is one of those stories that really is too good to try and confirm just in case it didn’t happen. It just may be one of those stories best prefaced with “Legend has it . . .”

But, hey, here it is . . .

It was early in December of 1996 and Rocky Thompson and the Medicine Hat Tigers were preparing to head out on a three-game swing into B.C. They were scheduled to visit the Kelowna Rockets (Dec. 10), Kamloops Blazers (Dec. 11) and Prince George Cougars (Dec. 13).

Defenceman Scott Parker was the man with the Rockets, while the Blazers had forward Rob Skrlac. In Prince George, Zdeno Chara, a young 6-foot-8 defenceman from Trencin, Slovakia, was making people sit up and take notice.

Thompson, of course, knew the challenges he would face on this road trip. He was in his fourth season with the Tigers, although he would be traded to the Swift Current Broncos on Jan. 24, which was the trade deadline. Todd McLellan, the Broncos’ general manager and head coach, acquired Thompson, 19, and sniper Josh Green, 19, for F Tyler Perry, 19; F Andrew Milne, 18; D Kevin Mackie, 15; F Brett Scheffelmaier, 15; and a 1997 second-round bantam draft pick.

But that trade was yet to happen.

Preparing to head into the rugged B.C. Division, Thompson was well aware of just who would be his dance partners.

He knew all about Parker and Skrlac, both of whom were WHL veterans. But, hey, what about the new guy in Prince George?

Well, Thompson thought it would be a good idea to really test the new guy, so before heading out on the road he sent a fax to Chara via the Cougars’ office. “I’m coming for you” is all it read.

The Tigers opened the trip in Kelowna and, true to form, Thompson and Parker scrapped right off the opening faceoff. Moments before the puck was dropped, Parker skated up from the Kelowna blue line and traded shots with the Rockets’ starting right winger, which put him nose-to-nose with Thompson, who was lined up at left wing. The epic bout that followed is available on YouTube.

One night later, Thompson was back in the Tigers’ lineup in Kamloops, but as hard as Skrlac tried in the early going he wasn’t able to engage the Medicine Hat tough guy. Eventually, the referee approached Thompson and  asked if he had plans to accommodate Skrlac. Thompson told him that he had damaged a hand in the bout with Parker so wasn’t about to scrap with Skrlac.

Two nights later, Thompson picked up a roughing minor in Prince George, but there wasn’t a bout with Chara.

The best laid plans — and sent faxes — and all that . . .

BTW, the Tigers made out just fine on the trip, beating the Rockets 5-4 in OT on a goal by F Jason Chimera at 4:48 of extra time, winning 3-1 in Kamloops and earning a 2-2 OT tie (remember ties?) in Prince George.

Of course, we are referencing the same Rocky Thompson who, at the age of 43, is preparing for his first season as an associate coach with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. He spent the previous three seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. He also was the head coach of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires for two seasons, helping them to the 2017 Memorial Cup title.



These are interesting times in major junior hockey, where the OHL and WHL are qmjhlnewhoping to get their regular seasons started in December. The QMJHL, meanwhile, has one weekend under its belt and has lost three teams. . . . The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Sherbrooke Phoenix have suspended all in-person activities. That comes after an Armada player tested positive following a weekend doubleheader between the teams. . . . At the same time, the Armada and Quebec Remparts have been shut down at least for the rest of this month as they are in a red zone as defined by the provincial government. . . . Armada staff and players are in isolation as they await further testing and results, and the outcome of contact tracing. . . . The Armada and Remparts each has eight games on their October schedules.

From a QMJHL news release:

“Following the Quebec government’s announcement to prohibit the practice of sports in the designated red zones, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is very disappointed in this decision.

“The conduct of our activities has been above reproach since the start of training camps at the end of August. The return to play protocol was approved and applauded by public health officials in Quebec and by the three Maritime-based provinces in which the league operates. It has been hailed as thorough and effective. The league would like to congratulate the players and team staffs for its flawless execution.

“Over the course of the next few days, we will share with Quebec public health officials additional measures which will render the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada’s and Quebec Remparts’ bubbles even more secure. We hope that these new directives will be well-received by Quebec’s health agency. The QMJHL is convinced that these additional measures will go above and beyond what is required to protect our players, staffs and officials and enable all of our teams to continue playing.”


That’s Kelly Olynyk at the left of the photo in the following tweet. He and his Miami Heat are scheduled to play Game 4 of the NBA final tonight in Orlando. The Los Angeles Lakers lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

F Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers tested positive on Monday. According to the Oilers, he is “in voluntary self-quarantine at his home. He will continue to be monitored and will follow all associated health protocols. He is feeling well and is experiencing mild symptoms.” . . .

Kevin Sumlin, the head coach of the Arizona football team, has tested positive. He is in self-isolation while contact tracing is conducted. His team is scheduled to begin practising on Friday, with its first game scheduled for Nov. 7 against host Utah. . . . “My family and I have been aggressive in our efforts to remain safe and healthy throughout the past seven months,” Sumlin said in a statement. “My positive test result, while a shock, is a stark reminder of how we must all remain vigilant in our focus on hand washing, physical distancing and face coverings.” . . . At least four FBS coaches have tested positive since July, the others being Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Jason Candle of Toledo and Blake Anderson of Arkansas State. . . .

Bobby Bowden, who spent 34 years as the head coach of the Florida State football team, has tested positive. Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Bowden, who will turn 91 next month, “tested positive following his release from (a Tallahassee) hospital last weekend while being treated for an unrelated leg infection.” . . . He had been released from hospital on Thursday and was informed on Saturday that he had tested positive. . . . Bowden retired in 2009 after 44 seasons as a football coach.


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.


Will OHL ban fighting and body-checking? . . . Some Toronto-area minor hockey groups shut down for season . . . Warriors reviewing the future of primary logo


Rick Westhead of TSN spoke with Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s sport minister, on Thursday. That conversation led to these tweets from Westhead . . .

1. The Ontario Hockey League may have to ban fighting and even body-checking ohlas a condition of resuming games, provincial sport minister Lisa MacLeod told me in an interview. (The OHL has said it hopes to open training camps in mid-Nov and begin its regular season Dec. 1.)

2. MacLeod: “The fact is that you can’t have physical contact right now. . . . We certainly will not be allowing people to be body-checking at the moment. We are trying to contain a healthcare crisis.”

3. MacLeod said the OHL has said that U.S.-based OHL teams will either relocate to Ontario for the season to avoid cross-border travel or they will remain in the U.S. and only play other American-based teams.

4. I asked whether spectators would be allowed at OHL games. MacLeod: “I don’t see that happening at the moment. . . . The last thing we want is to open and then have unintended consequences that put the safety and well-being of the athletes, spectators . . . and others at risk.”

5. MacLeod said the OHL & government are talking about a pandemic aid package but the OHL has not made a specific ask.

MacLeod also said the government still hasn’t heard a proposal from the OHL about how often the league would like to test players for Covid-19.


Batteries


TSN’s Rick Westhead also spoke with a couple of doctors, both of whom are wondering about the wisdom of playing hockey in these pandemic times.

After speaking with Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist, Westhead tweeted: “Dr. Andrew Morris (@ASPphysician) says it’s a bad idea to even contemplate major junior hockey right now. Ontario has an 85K test backlog. Some sick people, he says, aren’t being tested b/c they won’t line up for 5-6 hours.”

Dr. Morris told Westhead: “The numbers are going in the wrong direction fast.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Isaac Bogoch (@BogochIsaac), an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, told Westhead that he spoke with Toronto-area minor hockey leagues on a Sept. 24 conference call and recommended a shutdown for the 2020-21 season. “I’d be very hesitant to play,” Dr. Bogoch told Westhead. “Who do these players go home to and what’s the ripple effect this could have?”


The East York Hockey Association, with more than 800 minor hockey players, announced Monday that it was shutting down for the season.

“How would I feel, Lord forbid, if someone came into our organization, contracted this virus, took it home and their grandparent . . . gets it and dies?” Connie Mitchell, the association’s president, told Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic. “How would I live with myself?”

Fitz-Gerald added: “East York announced it was cancelling its season on Monday, just a week after it opened registration to returning players. It became the second GTHL-sanctioned association to close because of COVID-19, following Amesbury/Bert Robinson Minor Hockey League. (Swansea Hockey Association, which is not part of the GTHL, has also ceased operations for the season.)”

Fitz-Gerald’s story is right here.


So . . . you think you’ve got a gambling problem! Well, consider the bettor who picked the New York Giants to cover what was a four-point spread on Sunday. He put down $500,000. The visiting San Francisco 49ers won, 36-9. . . . Meanwhile, with the 49ers missing nine injured starters, someone bet that Giants QB Daniel Jones would throw for more than 244.5 yards. Uhh, no. He finished with 179, and there went another $500,000. . . . Both bets were placed with the DraftKings Sportsbook; a spokesperson wouldn’t tell the Action Network whether both bets were placed by the same person. . . . Now you can go back to that $2 scratch-and-win crossword.


Lastcall


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

With the Tennessee Titans having reported 11 positive tests, including five players, the NFL has postponed their scheduled Sunday game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers until sometime later in the season. Prior to two more positive tests revealed Thursday, including one player, the league had hoped to play the game Monday or Tuesday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings, who lost to the visiting Titans on Sunday, hadn’t had any positives through Wednesday tests and reopened their facilities on Thursday. . . .

Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported that the bus driver who “drove the Titans last weekend in Minnesota also drove MLB’s Houston Astros on their trip for a playoff series this week against the Twins, per sources. After the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak surfaced, the Astros removed the driver.” . . .

The MLS has postponed a game between the visiting Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbermen that was scheduled for Saturday. The move comes after the Rapids had two players and one staff member test positive. . . . The game now is scheduled to be played on Nov. 4. . . . The Rapids haven’t trained since Sept. 24 when the organization first experienced positive tests. . . .

The U of Hawaii has suspended training activities for its teams in football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. The decision was made after four football players tested positive. The football team had started its fifth practice when it was halted because of the positive tests.


——

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.



Geoff Grimwood has resigned as general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s CowichanCowichan Capitals. . . . A news release from the team included this quote from Grimwood: “Effective today I have resigned my position of GM/head coach over ethical and philosophical differences with ownership. I have certain values that guide how I coach. I no longer felt comfortable continuing in this situation.” . . . Brian Passmore, the Capitals’ coach in 2017-18, has been named interim GM/head coach. . . . Grimwood didn’t get to coach even one regular-season with the Capitals. He was signed to what the team said was a “multi-year contract” on May 4. . . . In recent seasons, Grimwood has been on staff with the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers, the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors and the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders and Winkler Flyers. . . . He was hired by the Capitals to replace Mike Vandekamp, who now is with the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm.


JUST NOTES: Darryl Plandowski is the new director of amateur scouting for the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. He is coming off 12 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, most recently as assistant director of amateur scouting. He has some WHL history, having spent six seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds, four as a scout and two as an assistant coach. . . . Judging by Thursday’s loss to the visiting Denver Broncos, the NFL’s New York Jets are most fortunate that fans aren’t allowed into their home games.


Dwarfs

Lots of food for thought in losses by Broncos and Warriors . . . QMJHL increases penalties for fighting at government request . . . Mustangs cleared for return to ice

Four of the WHL’s 22 teams are publicly owned and, as such, are obligated to hold annual general meetings and to release their financial statements.

Two of those teams — the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos — whlannounced combined losses of more than $1 million on Tuesday night, something that should have set off alarm bells among fans hoping for some kind of 2020-21 season.

Moose Jaw finished the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season in last place in the East Division, while Swift Current was in the cellar of the Central Division. So neither team was in line to reap the rewards that come with qualifying for the playoffs.

The Broncos, whose average attendance dropped 444 from the previous season, lost $791,000, ending a run of six straight seasons in which they had shown a profit. Season-ticket sales were down 345, which is a big number for a team that plays in a 2,879-seat facility.

The Warriors, with their attendance down 366 per game, lost $391,299, running their two-season deficit to $556,444.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Randy Palmer of moosejawtoday.com reported that the team attributed $282,286 of its deficit  to “pandemic-related lost revenues.”

The Warriors also had to pay $180,846 as its share of the settlement of a $30-MooseJawWarriorsmillion class-action lawsuit, although that settlement has yet to be approved by the court. Still, assuming that it is, each of the WHL’s Canadian teams will be on the hook for that amount.

The Warriors, Palmer reported right here, still have $610,653 in the bank, but they did defer their annual $200,000 payment that is part of their commitment to the Multiplex. They have two payments left in a 10-year pledge.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Warriors Booster Club raised $238,771 in 2019-20.

The Warriors, like all WHL teams, are going to have a different organizational look whenever it is that play resumes. As club president Chad Taylor told Palmer: “We’ll need the help of the community when we get going again and hockey will look different — our staff will look different, we’ll be leaner — but that is the times and we’ll make it work.”

The Broncos, meanwhile, also will be leaner. These days, Dean Brockman, the SCBroncosdirector of hockey operations and head coach, is the only employee working on the hockey side of things, with Nathan MacDonald and Ryan Stricker on the business side. Their retail store — The Stable — is open and management has authorized 10 paid hours per week for communications.

Trent McLeary, a former Broncos player who now is chairman of the team’s board of directors, said after the AGM that “it’s a fight to survive,” stating that it will take the franchise years to recover from the loss.

“It’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” McLeary told Steven Mah of the Southwest Booster. “We don’t think we have to make this up in one year . . . so there’s lots of challenges, lots of things that are going to challenge us as an organization, as a community. But we’re not the only ones, you look at baseball, you look at soccer, you look at everything.”

(Mah’s story is right here.)

The WHL’s two other publicly owned teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — have yet to hold their annual general meetings.

The Raiders’ meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7. Following the 2018-19 season, one Raiders50in which they won the WHL championship, they announced a profit of $633,314. In the previous five seasons, they had shown losses totalling $806,571 in four of them; the exception being a profit of $3,892 in 2015-16.

When the 2019-20 season was halted, the Raiders were 36-18-10 and had clinched first place in the East Division. They had two home games remaining and may well have had a deep playoff run in their future. Their average attendance also was up 27 over the previous season, meaning the championship love affair in that city still was in full bloom.

The Hurricanes have said they will hold their AGM on a November date that Lethbridgehasn’t yet been announced.

They are coming off four straight profit-making seasons. Last season’s profit of $282,168 allowed the four-season total to grow to $1,639,321. (Don’t forget, though, that they had losses totalling more than $1.25 million in the previous five seasons.)

When the 2019-20 season ended, Lethbridge was 37-19-7 and third in the Central Division. Its attendance was down one fan per game, to 3,970, over 2018-19. Still, it lost three home dates to the cancellation, and who knows how many playoff games were in its future?

The Hurricanes pay the City of Lethbridge an annual maintenance fee of $166,667 for their home arena, the Enmax Centre. Last month, the Hurricanes and the City agreed to a one-year deferment of that payment, in the process adding a year to the arena lease that now runs through 2029-30. The Hurricanes asked for the deferment, citing revenues lost to the pandemic.

We will find out in November just how much they lost.

I would suggest that the four publicly owned franchises are far from being the WHL’s biggest spenders. Of course, the privately owned teams don’t have to share their numbers with the public. But judging by what the Broncos and Warriors reported, and what is surely to come from the Hurricanes and Raiders, you have to think there is some major pain being felt.

And that’s why the WHL can’t afford to start a season without being able to operate at less than 50 per cent capacity in its arenas. The losses from a season played without restrictions, albeit a shortened one, were large. Losses from a season played without fans in the stands would be mind-numbing.


Pic


Here, in summation, is what I believe has happened with the QMJHL and qmjhlnewfighting. . . . The league approached the government and asked for $20 million in subsidies to help its 12 Quebec-based team get through the pandemic. . . . Isabelle Charest, a former Olympic speed skater who is the junior education minister, suggested the league needed to do more to eliminate fighting. . . . On Wednesday, the QMJHL’s board of governors voted to slap a fighter with a major and a misconduct, meaning that player would have to sit out 15 minutes. A player also would face a one-game suspension after accumulating three fights, with more time off for each fight after that. . . . Here is the QMJHL’s Rule 47: “All players involved in a fight will now be assessed a misconduct penalty (duration of 10 minutes) which will be added to the major penalty (five minutes), except if a player involved is considered an instigator or an aggressor. An automatic one-game suspension will be assessed after the third fight, and for any additional fight.” . . . There is a chart right here that explains all possible situations. . . . I guess we can assume the QMJHL now is awaiting an etransfer from the government.


Flushot


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs said Wednesday that they have been “approved to resume our training hockey-related activities.” Things had been on hold since Sept. 25 when one of their players tested positive. . . . According to the Mustangs, all tests “administered . . . this week have come back negative and there is no risk of the spread of the virus.: . . .

The Tennessee Titans have a reported nine positive tests in their organization, and the NFL has said their game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers that had been scheduled for Sunday will be played Monday or Tuesday. . . . The Titans have halted football-related activities until at least Saturday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings, who played the visiting Titans on Sunday, haven’t had any positives. They should return to their practice facility today (Thursday). . . .

The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are forecasting a $10-million loss, revealed Wednesday that they have terminated some employees and laid off others in both business and football operations. . . . In a statement, the team said it “had to make significant adjustments to our workforce including temporary and permanent layoffs in both the Business Operations and Football Operations.” . . . Matt Lowry, a content provider with the team for four years, tweeted that he had been laid off, and added: “There’s too many awesome co-workers to thank, but you know who you are, and you’ll hear from me. And please WEAR A MASK so we can all enjoy the 2021 CFL season from wherever you may be.” . . .

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is in the process of terminating 40 per cent of its staff at TD Place. The arena and stadium are home to the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, both of which are owned by OSEG. However, staff from those teams weren’t included in the terminations. . . .

MLB announced Wednesday that it will allow about 11,500 fans into NLCS and World Series games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Fans haven’t been allowed into MLB games since spring training. . . . Face masks will be mandatory and, according to MLB, “No seats will be sold within 20 feet of where a player can be located on the field, in the dugouts or in the bullpen.” . . . Some numbers from Deadspin’s Jesse Spector: “In September, there were 6,913 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County, Texas, including 447 reported on Wednesday, the final day of the month. That brings the cumulative tally for the county to 46,527 people stricken by coronavirus, with 721 dead from the pandemic.”



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: Steve Hogle, who spent six seasons as president of the Saskatoon Blades, has been hired as the general manager of Hockey Edmonton. Hogle is from Edmonton and played minor hockey there. Before joining the Blades, he was with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers as vice-president of communications and broadcasting. He replaces the retiring Dean Hengel with Hockey Edmonton. . . . The Minnesota Twins, who were eliminated from the American League playoffs yesterday, have lost 18 straight post-season games, going back to 2004. Since then, the Houston Astros, who finished off the Twins, have won 43 playoff games. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has a good look at Al Murray, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s assistant GM and director of amateur scouting, right here. It’s well worth your time.


Books

WHL: Broncos drop $791,000, while Warriors’ losses hit $391,299 . . . Virus finds an NFL team . . . Smith leaves Tigers for Chiefs


The Swift Current Broncos had a tough go of it on the ice last season, putting up a record of 10-48-5.

Things were just as bad in the accounting ledger as the WHL team announced a loss SCBroncosof $791,000 at its annual general meeting on Tuesday night. One year earlier, after a 2018-19 season in which it was 11-51-6, the team announced a profit of $38,196.

After last night’s AGM, the team explained in a statement: “The financial results for (the) season were severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the settlement of a CHL-wide class-action lawsuit, an accounting revaluation of the education scholarship liability, and several unexpected reductions in key supplementary revenue streams, amounting to over $470,000 of additional losses for the season.”

The Broncos’ news release is right here.

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Meanwhile, the Moose Jaw Warriors announced a 2019-20 loss of $391,299 at MooseJawWarriorstheir AGM, which also was held on Tuesday night. One year earlier, the team announced a loss of $165,145 for 2018-19.

“In total,” wrote Corey Atkinson of discovermoosejaw.com, “the Warriors lost $391,299 on the season, handing over $282,286 in lost revenues due to COVID and their share of a lawsuit assessment — $180,846 — against the Canadian Hockey League in May.”

Atkinson also reported: “The Warriors have trimmed staff and have been able to get some pay decreases to try to minimize the impact. They’re also taken a deferral of the commitment they made annually to the multiplex — a $200,000 commitment for this season. They pledged $2.5 million in 2011-12 for the building, and have been able to come through on $2.1 million of that over the last 10 years.”

The Warriors finished last in the six-team East Division, at 14-44-4. They lost three home dates to the pandemic, and averaged 2,981 fans for 31 games. That was down from 2018-19 when the average for 34 games was 3,347.

Atkinson also reported that “regular-season receipts were down from $1,661,649 last (season) to $1,356,766.”

Atkinson’s story is right here.


AlMurray
Al Murray and his wife, Lori, celebrated the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory with a Tuesday morning walk in Regina. (Photo: Murray McCormick/Facebook)

So . . . you’re Al Murray and you have been with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 10 NHL seasons. You are the assistant general manager/director of amateur scouting, so you have had a lot to do with the construction of the team’s roster. . . . You’re Al Murray and your team won the Stanley Cup on Monday night in Edmonton, while you watched from your home in Regina. So what did you do on Tuesday morning? . . . You went for a walk, that’s what. . . . Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post was out for a morning stroll when he encountered Murray and his wife, Lori. Yes, they both were smiling. . . .

You should know that Al Murray isn’t a stranger to winning. In three years as Hockey Canada’s head scout, his teams won two World Junior titles, one at the IIHF U-18 championship, and three Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament titles. . . . I first met him when he was the head coach of the U of Regina Cougars men’s team, a position he held from 1985-88. Sheesh, Al, that was a long time ago!



A note from the Monday posting by Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon:

“Dr. Harry Edwards is a noted sociologist who has spent a long time as an observer and a critic of sports as they impact Black athletes’ lives. Over the weekend, I ran across a Tweet from him related to the decision by the PAC-12 schools to reverse course and play football this fall:

“ ‘For PAC12 programs to use ‘our student-athletes want to play’ as a PRINCIPAL reason for restarting football/fall sports programs while soft-peddling COVID risks to athletes, denying MONEY considerations significantly driving this decision is disingenuous, delusional,& dangerous.’ ”


Two


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The NHL announced on Monday that it had completed a ninth week of bubble play without any positive tests. There were 773 tests done from Sept. 20-26. All told, there were 33,174 tests to players and club personnel while the playoffs were conducted in the Edmonton bubble. . . . Of course, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup last night in Edmonton, securing a six-game victory over the Dallas Stars with a 2-0 victory in Game 6. . . . The NHL deserves straight As for getting through these playoffs in two bubble cities — Toronto being the other one — without any positive tests. . . .

The Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings played an NFL game in Minneapolis on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Titans announced eight positive tests — three players and five other employees — and shut things down until at least Saturday. The Vikings have closed their practice facility pending further test results. . . . The NFL also is doing daily testing and monitoring of on-field officials from Sunday’s game. That crew won’t work in Week 4. . . . This all started on Saturday when Titans LB Shane Bowen tested positive and didn’t make the trip to Minneapolis. All other Tennessee players, coaches and staff were negative on Saturday. . . . The Titans are scheduled to meet the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, while the Vikings at to travel to Houston to meet the Texans. . . .

The 2020 Spengler Cup has been cancelled. The tournament, held annually in Davos, Switzerland, had been scheduled to run from Dec. 26-31. . . .

The five-school Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference has cancelled its 2020 soccer season. The decision was made as Winnipeg shifted to a Code Orange response to the pandemic. . . .

After cancelling Saturday’s football game against host Wake Forest because of seven positive tests, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish revealed that they now have 18 positives. . . . All told, there are 25 players in isolation and another 14 in quarantine. . . . Notre Dame’s next scheduled game is Oct. 10 against visiting Florida State. . . .

The KHL has cancelled its all-star game and the week long festivities that accompany it. The party was to have been held in Riga, Latvia, in January.

Blake Anderson, the head football coach at Arkansas State, has admitted to testing positive after the Red Wolves beat host Kansas State on Sept. 12. That likely is no surprise because the Red Wolves have had to postpone their last two games because of positive tests and contact tracing. . . .

Central Arkansas is to play North Dakota State in Fargo on Saturday. NDSU was going to allow more than 8,000 fans into the game, this despite numbers rising in the area and the state having suggested a cap of 250 fans at indoor events. The Fargodome seats 18,700 for football. . . . On Tuesday, however, the school changed plans and will allow only the families of players to watch from the stands.


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.



Phone


Ryan Smith has left the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, where he was an assistant coach, to join the Spokane Chiefs as associate coach. . . . In Spokane, Smith will work alongside Adam Maglio, who was promoted to head coach to replace Manny Viveiros, who has joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights as head coach their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Smith is coming off two seasons with the Tigers after spending three on the Swift Current Broncos’ coaching staff.


I haven’t seen an announcement from either team — although perhaps I missed it — but Gary Aubin appears to have moved on from the Swift Current Broncos and landed with the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Aubin, from St. Albert, Alta., had been the Broncos’ director of player personnel since July 18, 2018; in fact, he guided them through the 2020 WHL bantam draft. Before joining the Broncos, he spent 11 seasons on the Spokane Chiefs’ scouting staff and before that he worked with the Kamloops Blazers for 15 years. . . . Now he is listed on the Rockets’ website as a member of their scouting staff.


JUST NOTES: Hey, NFL, it’s time to do away with kickoffs. Just spot the ball at the 25 and carry on. . . . I don’t know about you, but I really, really miss the CFL. . . . QB Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs looks like a man playing in a city’s minor football program. . . . Two WHLers — F Lukas Svejkovsky of the Medicine Hat Tigers and G Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips — are among the 39 players invited to USA Hockey’s national junior team evaluation camp. That camp, which will be closed to fans, media and scouts, is scheduled for Oct. 8-13 in Plymouth, Mich. . . . The USHL has released its 2020-21 regular-season schedule. It calls for each of its 14 teams to play 54 games in what the league called a “regionally based schedule.” The regular season is to end on April 24. The USHL also said that its teams “are working with health and government officials regarding spectator policies. Each team will develop its own plan for spectators based on local and state guidelines.” . . . I don’t know about you, but rather than watch last night’s debate, I spent the evening with Statler and Waldorf.


Keys

WHL named in another proposed class-action suit . . . Former player Kobe Mohr involved in this one . . . Pats’ pick to skate in Sweden

Sheesh, it really can’t be much fun being the owner of a WHL team these days. For starters, you don’t know whether to be selling sponsorships, advertising and season tickets because you aren’t able to guarantee a starting date for a new whlseason. You are hoping to begin regular-season play on Dec. 4, but there aren’t any guarantees.

On top of that, you likely still are counting up the losses from not having been able to finish the 2019-20 season, thanks to the pandemic that doesn’t appear anywhere close to going way.

And now the WHL finds itself involved in yet another proposed class-action lawsuit, this one apparently having been filed this week.

Kobe Mohr, a former WHL player, is among those fronting this one that names the NHL, AHL, ECHL, OHL, QMJHL and WHL. Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star reports: “A proposed $825-million class-action claim alleges a conspiracy among the world’s top professional and amateur hockey leagues to exploit dream-chasing teenage players with one-sided contracts containing abusive restrictions on their young careers.”

Mohr, now 21, played with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Moose Jaw Warriors (2014-20). He totalled 35 goals and 66 assists in 265 regular-season games, after being selected by Edmonton with the 20th pick in the 2014 bantam draft.

The WHL now finds itself entangled to one degree or another in four separate class-action lawsuits in various stages of progression through the legal system. Two others — one involving concussions and the other regarding alleged hazing and other physical and mental abuses — are early in the process. . . .

The other, which involved a claim for past and present-day players to be paid minimum wage and other perks, was settled by the CHL for $30 million earlier this year, but the settlement still needs judicial approval. Rick Westhead of TSN reported Tuesday that an Ontario judge spent part of yesterday hearing arguments “about whether to approve” the settlement. According to Westhead, Justice Paul Perell said there are “objectors” to the settlement and that “a trade association called the World Association of Ice Hockey Players Unions has filed ‘an aggressive intervenor’ application with the courts to overturn” the settlement.

Ted Charney, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, asked the courts to approve the settlement, saying, according to Westhead, that “a settlement wouldn’t bar new federal court case because the new case alleges a conspiracy to breach the Competition Act, not employment standards laws.”

When Tuesday’s hearing concluded, judgment was reserved.


Asteroid


F Connor Bedard, who was selected first overall by the Regina Pats in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft, will be travelling to Sweden so that he can skate with HV71’s junior team in Jönköping. Bedard, from North Vancouver, is the first player in history to have been granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada in order to allow him to play regularly in the WHL as a 15-year-old. . . . Because he won’t be playing in games in Sweden, the Pats didn’t have to issue a release. The WHL hopes to start its regular season on Dec. 4, by which time Bedard will have returned to Canada.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The United Kingdom’s 10-team Elite Hockey League announced Tuesday that it has suspended play because of the pandemic. The season was scheduled to begin on Dec. 5. . . . “We’ve been very open that we need to have fans back in our arenas for us to begin playing again,” Tony Smith, the league’s chairman, said. “We operate around 75 to 100 per cent capacity at our venues and this is the level of crowds we would need in order to go ahead at any point, which isn’t a realistic option right now.” . . . The average attendance at league game last season was 3,043. . . .

The World Series will be played in one venue for the first time since 1944. The American and National League winners will play a best-of-seven championship series at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, with Game 1 scheduled for Oct. 20. . . . In 1944, the World Series was played in St. Louis, with both teams from that city. The Cardinals beat the Browns, 4-2. . . . Leading to the World Series, the American League Championship Series will be played at Petco Park in San Diego, with the NLCS at Arlington. . . . Prior to that, the AL Divison Series is to be played in San Diego and Los Angeles, with the NLDS in Arlington and Houston. . . .

The Texas Tech Red Raiders had five positives last week, bringing the team total to 75 since mid-June when testing began as football players returned to campus. The team is carrying more than 120 players. . . . The school has had 116 positives among its student-athletes. . . .

Ed Orgeron, the head football coach at LSU, told reporters on Tuesday that most of his time has had the virus. “Not all of our players, but most of our players have caught it,” he said. “I think that hopefully they won’t catch it again, and hopefully they’re not our for games.” . . . Alex Scarborough of ESPN pointed out: “LSU, like many programs in the SEC and nationally, has not provided regular reports on the number of players who have contracted the novel coronavirus.” . . .

The Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF) cancelled university sports for the fall semester on Monday. This means none of Canada’s four university conferences will play football this fall. The Quebec conference has five teams. . . . U Sports, the governing body for university sports in Canada, had cancelled its national semifinals and final in June. . . .

Organizers of the 2021 Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament have cancelled it. The tournament was to have run from Dec. 30 through Jan. 3. . . . Tournament chairman Jan Antons told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week: “We still don’t know what games are going to look like, when games are potentially going to start and, overall, the main concern was still the health and safety of our players, bringing players in from other provinces and dealing with the 50-person gathering-size limit. It would make it very difficulty to run a tournament at the level we’re used to. We want to make sure KIBIHT remains one of the top-notch tournaments in Canada. . . . there is just too much unknown right now. It’s still a very hard decision.”


Sign


——

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: The WHL’s four community-owned teams each holds an annual general meeting that is open to shareholders. The Moose Jaw Warriors announced Tuesday that they will hold their AGM on Sept. 29. The Swift Current Broncos said earlier that their meeting also will be held on Sept. 29, with the Prince Albert Raiders having said they will hold their AGM on Oct. 7. . . . The Lethbridge Hurricanes have said their AGM will be held in November, but they have yet to announce an exact date. . . . I don’t know what it is — maybe NHL teams have come down with the ‘Bubble Blues’ — but the games are getting less and less watchable. Too many bodies in the area in front of both nets, not enough shots getting through, not enough offence, not enough goals. Whatever it is, it isn’t good for the NHL game. . . . Did you get your fill of football on Monday night? ESPN’s MNF team of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick — they did the second game — were OK, but the Game 1 pairing of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit was outstanding. Fowler and Herbstreit have worked together as ESPN’s No. 1 college football pairing. They are comfortable with each other and it showed.


Hearing

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc . . . MLS tourney starts tonight without FC Dallas . . . Ryder Cup to be postponed


About the MLS is Back tournament . . .

FC Dallas was taken out of the tournament on Monday after having 10 players and one coach test positive. . . . There still are 25 teams in the competition, which is to begin today (Wednesday) with Orlando City and Inter Miami CF meeting.

The Vancouver Whitecaps left for Orlando without Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, Georges Mukumbilwa, Tosaint Ricketts and Andy Rose. . . . Cavallini said he has lost two family members to COVID-19 and stayed behind “to support my loved ones.” . . . Rickets said he has a pre-existing condition. . . . Rose stayed at home to be with his pregnant wife. . . . Montero cited family reasons. . . . Mukumbilwa apparently isn’t cleared for travel outside of Canada at this time. . . .

Nashville SC arrived in Orlando on Friday, and reported Tuesday that it had five positive tests with four others ruled inconclusive. . . . As a result, Nashville’s game against the Chicago Fire that had been scheduled for tonight (Wednesday) has been postponed.

——

Bulgarian soccer club Cherno More revealed that it has had 12 players and four officials test positive after playing Sunday against Tsarsko Selo in Sofia. Tsarsko Selo apparently had one player test positive prior to the game, but didn’t reveal it.


Piano


G Asia Durr of the WNBA’s New York Liberty won’t play this season after testing positive on June 8. She has had symptoms and hasn’t yet recovered. . . . Durr was the second overall selection in the 2019 draft. . . . The league revealed Tuesday that seven of 137 players tested had come up positive over the past week. . . . The WNBA hopes to play a 22-game season in at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., starting later this month.


With NHL teams to open training camps on July 13 with teams travelling to Edmonton and Toronto on July 26, the league announced Monday that it had nine more players test positive. That brought the total to 35. The NHL announces its numbers on a weekly basis.


OF Nick Markakis of the Atlanta Braves has opted out after a conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who tested positive and has symptoms. “Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough,” Markakis, 36, said. “It was kind of eye-opening. With everything that’s going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes.”

The Philadelphia Phillies reported that coaches Rob Thomson, Jim Gott and Greg Brodzinski all tested positive and aren’t in camp. . . . As well, players Scott Kingery, Tommy Hunter and Mikie Mahtook have tested positive. . . . Kingery was diagnosed on June 11 and isn’t anywhere near ready to play baseball. More on that right here. . . .

P Eduardo Rodriguez and Bobby Dalbec of the Boston Red Sox have tested positive. Rodriguez, who had been tabbed as Boston’s opening day starter, has some symptoms but is feeling better. Dalbec, an infield prospect who apparently contacted it at home, is asymptomatic. . . .

——

Some positive tests with a high school baseball team in Newberg, Ore. . . .

——

OF Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers has been tested four times over the past 10 days. Two came back negative; two were positive. . . . The negatives came from nasal swab tests; the positives were after PCR/saliva tests. . . . Gallo hasn’t yet been allowed to work out with the Rangers as he awaits the result of yet another saliva test, one that was taken on Tuesday evening. . . .

OF Kole Calhoun of the Arizona Diamondbacks became the third player on that team’s 40-man roster to test positive. He is said to be asymptomatic and, according to manager Torey Lovullo, “feeling great.” . . .

The San Francisco Giants reported two positive tests on Monday. Here’s Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle: “The club did not identify them, and the news release specifically did not describe the two who tested positive as players. It used the term ‘individuals,’ which means one or both could be coaches or other staff members.” . . . Both individuals are in self-isolation. . . .

P Brad Keller and 1B Ryan O’Hearn of the Kansas City Royals have tested positive. Keller has minor symptoms.


G Spencer Dinwiddie won’t be with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets as they open camp in Orlando where the season is to resume on July 30. Dinwiddie has tested positive and has symptoms so won’t be playing in Orlando. . . . Earlier, C DeAndre Jordan of the Nets tested positive and opted out.


Robots


In golf, the women’s British Open will be played at Royal Troon, Aug. 20-23, without spectators. That’s one week after the Ladies Scottish Open is scheduled to be played. . . .

ESPN reported on Tuesday that the PGA of America and the European Tour will announce today that the Ryder Cup has been postponed to 2021, with the Presidents Cup pushed back to 2022. . . . The Ryder Cup was to have been held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, Sept. 25-27. . . .

The PGA Tour had hoped to have some fans on course next week for the Memorial at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. But those plans have been scrapped because of the pandemic. . . .



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, in writing about the kerfuffle about the NFL Washington franchise’s nickname, has a suggestion: “One team name that should offend no one because it is so obviously correct would be Washington Gridlock. That would honor the traffic situation here and the political situation nationally.” . . . He’s got more right here.


The curmudgeonly one also sent a Thought for the Day, along with this note — H.L. Mencken wrote this more than 70 years ago. Imagine what he might say today on a similar topic. . . . Here it is: “Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow. What would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites?”


The Moose Jaw Warriors have added Gord Burnett to their coaching staff as an assistant to head coach Mark O’Leary. The coaching staff also includes assistant Scott King and coaching assistant Olivia Howe. . . . Burnett spent last season as the head coach of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues, who are owned by the owners of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. Burnett, who is from Regina, spent four seasons (2015-19) on the Kootenay Ice’s staff before the franchise moved to the Manitoba capital.


James Gaertner has signed on as the head coach and assistant general manager of the junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. . . . Last season, he was the head coach of the VIJHL’s Kerry Park Islanders. Prior to that, he was on the coach staff of the U of Victoria Vikes for five seasons. . . . He takes over the Buccaneers’ bench from Brad Knight, who was hired on May 8 but stepped down late last month.


Clickit

Nicknames: To change, or not to change, that is the question . . . Top NASCAR driver tests positive . . . Hockey Canada cancels U-17 WHC

In a recent editorial, the Washington Post called for Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the NFL team’s nickname.

Asked by USA Today in 2013 if he would change the name, Snyder replied: “NEVER — you can use caps.”

But now, with Black Lives Matter front and centre, the pressure is on again.

From The Post’s View:

“Already, institutions across the board have been forced to take stock of how their practices and policies and — yes — even the names and symbols of their products have contributed to racial misunderstanding and prejudice. Quaker Oats announced it was getting rid of Aunt Jemima from its syrup and pancake mixes, and Uncle Ben and Mrs. Butterworth seem sure to follow. . . . Events DC, which manages RFK Stadium in Washington, removed a statue of George Preston Marshall, who as owner of the local football team refused to allow black players for as long as he possibly could. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently admitted to — and apologized for — not listening to players about systemic racism and police brutality against African Americans. He also must know it is wrong for a team to have a name that the dictionary defines as a racial slur and that no one would ever use to address a person who is a Native American.

“This should be an easy call. Mr. Snyder — or, if Mr. Snyder refuses to back down from his declaration of ‘NEVER,’ the NFL — should take advantage of this singular moment in history to get on the right side of history. Change the name. NOW.”

It seems that a name change is imminent, what with various sponsors and other businesses with ties to the NFL team now applying pressure.

FedEx, which agreed to a naming rights deal for the stadium in which the team plays, has asked Snyder to change the name. Frederick W. Smith, FedEx’s CEO and chairman, is a minority owner of the team.

Nike has taken the team’s merchandise from its online store, but has yet to offer an explanation.

Officials with Pepsi and Bank of America also have indicated that they want to see a name change.

“It’s not hard to change the name,” Tony Dungy, who is well-respected in NFL circles, told William C. Rhoden of The Undefeated.

Meanwhile, you can add Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream to the list of name-changers, too, because management told Reuters the other day that it will change the brand name of its Eskimo Pie ice cream stick.

Yes, the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos are facing pressure — again — to come up with a new nickname.

Simon Fraser University, which is located in Burnaby, almost surely will be changing its nickname — Clan — at some point in the coming months after 97 per cent of student-athletes voted to get rid of it. The athletes, it seems, are tired of being asked about the nickname, especially when they journey south to play against U.S. schools.

And the Cleveland Indians say they are ready to discuss a change. They issued a release on Friday that read, in part: “We are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

——

Here’s Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, on the nickname situation involving the Washington NFLers: “It’s been theorized that a fan boycott might convince Snyder to change the team’s name. But judging from attendance at FedEx Field the last few years, how could anybody tell if there was a boycott?”

——

With all of that, allow me to place this on the table . . .

There are four WHL teams with nicknames and logos that refer in one way or another to Native American or Canadian First Nations peoples — the Moose Jaw Warriors, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds and Spokane Chiefs.

In November 2014, the Prince Albert Raiders received some heat when they unveiled a new mascot — Boston Raider — that was sponsored by a pizza joint. But, as Adam Proteau wrote in The Hockey News, “The new mascot’s appearance does not sit well with a number of people who believe it stereotypes those of Middle Eastern heritage.”

The mascot, which also paid tribute to the Raiders’ original logo, quickly and quietly disappeared, with the club apologizing to anyone who may have been been offended.

The Raiders really didn’t mean anything with what they felt was a simple marketing move.

The WHL franchises in Moose Jaw, Portland, Seattle and Spokane aren’t trying to be offensive with their nicknames, either.

But with all that’s going on right now, should they be changing their nicknames to, as the Washington Post editorial read, “get on the right side of history,” or is it OK to maintain the status quo?

Maybe the WHL and one, two three or all of those franchises should take action now and, in doing so, get in front of things . . . instead of having to react at a later date.

——


Prescrip


Jimmie Johnson, with seven NASCAR titles under his belt, has tested positive and will miss this weekend’s races at Indy. He will have to have two negative tests within a 24-hour period before being allowed to return to racing. . . . Going into this weekend, Johnson had made 663 consecutive starts. In fact, he has never missed a start in his career. . . . According to Jeff Gluck, who covers NASCAR like a blanket for The Athletic, Johnson “got tested (Friday) after learning wife Chani tested positive.” . . . Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 in Sunday’s Brickyard 400. . . .

Jeremy Rutherford and Scott Burnside of The Athletic reported Friday evening that, according to sources, the NHL’s St. Louis Blues have cancelled practices at their facility because of “multiple” positive tests. . . . The Blues skated on Thursday at the facility, but not on Friday. . . .

Hockey Canada has cancelled the 2020 World U-17 Hockey Challenge that was to have been played in Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I., from Oct. 31 through Nov. 7. . . . The 2021 event will be held in those communities. . . . Hockey Canada also said that its remaining 2020 schedule remains unchanged, including the National Women’s U-18 Championship, Nov. 2-8, in Dawson Creek, B.C.; the Para Hockey Cup, Dec. 6-12, in Bridgewater, N.S.; the World Junior A Challenge, Dec. 13-20, in Cornwall, Ont.; and the 2021 World Junior Championship, Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer. . . .


MLB and the MLBPA announced Friday that positive tests total 31 players and seven staff members with teams having opened workouts to prepare for a July 23 opening day. . . . Identities of those testing positive aren’t being released, although OF Delino DeShields Jr. of the Cleveland Indians gave the team permission to reveal that he tested positive. . . . The Minnesota Twins said they have had four players test positive, including C Willians Astudillo, P Edwar Colina and INF Nick Gordon. The identity of the fourth player wasn’t released. . . .

The 2020 All-Star Game that was to have been played at Dodgers Stadium has been cancelled. The game had been scheduled for July 14. . . . This will be the first year since 1945 that an all-star game hasn’t been played. . . . The 2021 game is scheduled for Atlanta, and the 2022 game now is to be played in Los Angeles.


Psychic


“As organized sports attempt to return during the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes, coaches, spectators and bystanders will all be expected to sign liability waivers,” writes Michael McCann of Sportico. “Everyone associated with the games will have to accept, in so many words, that he or she (1) assumes the risk of contracting COVID-19 through their participation and (2) agrees that the organizer—be it a league, team, venue, college or even high school—would not be liable for any COVID-19 related harms.

“This is not just true of players, coaches and referees. According to The Athletic, the NFL is weighing the possibility of mandating that ticket-holders sign COVID-19 waivers as a condition of stadium entry.”

McCann is an attorney and law professor who writes on sports and law. In this piece right here, he writes on the potential legality of these waivers in the U.S.



Had to go to a small grocery store on Friday afternoon. Might have been two dozen people in it. I saw one mask. I was wearing it. . . . Come on people. Be better. . . .

If you’re wondering what we’re dealing with here, go to Twitter and check out the thread accompanying the tweet below . . .


Cat

AAA Warriors coach has kidney transplant . . . Weisgerber at home, planning on playoff return . . . ‘I feel better after two weeks than I have the last two years’

Trevor Weisgerber has some catching up to do, and he hardly can wait.

Weisgerber can’t remember the last time he sat down with his wife, Laurren, and two children — London, 7, and Ty, 4 — to watch a movie and actually was awake for the end.

That’s what happens when you are dealing with kidney disease.

These days, though, Weisgerber, in his first season as head coach the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, is a couple of weeks removed from having a kidney transplant, and he’s feeling like a new man.

In a conversation with Weisgerber from his Moose Jaw home on Monday, he recalled life in the years before the transplant:

Weisgerber
Trevor Weisgerber hopes to be back with his hockey team early in March. (Photo: Epic Hockey)

“You’re gone all day working and running around and doing what you do. I would take the kids to hockey, be on the ice as much as possible at their practices, but as soon as I came home, my heart rate would go down . . . instantly sleeping.

“We would watch a movie . . . I’d be lucky if I got through the introductions. In the last two years, I don’t think I’ve seen more than a quarter through a movie.”

When I spoke with him, he was 15 days removed from the transplant and his voice was vibrating with energy and enthusiasm.

“It’s definitely life-changing,” he said. “I’m only two weeks in but I can tell the difference already.

“I feel better after two weeks than I have the last two years. It’s incredible . . . absolutely incredible.”

Weisgerber, 40, has known for 11 years that he had a rare kidney disease known as Mucin-1, which has run rampant through one side of his family.

“It goes through our whole family . . . one Grandpa and his siblings . . . through all their families. It’s pretty crazy,” Weisgerber said. “There’s not a lot they can do right now, but I’m hoping with more testing that they can figure out something for our kids or even our kids’ kids.”

Weisgerber, a native of Vibank, Sask., was a point-producer during his playing days, which included stops with the Beardy’s Rage and Yorkton Terriers in the SJHL, three seasons at Lake Superior State U, and seven seasons in the now-defunct Central league.

——

(If you run a Google search for ‘Trevor Weisgerber hit’, you will find the above YouTube video of a concussion-inducing check that left Weisgerber unconscious and ultimately ended his playing career.)

——

It was while Weisgerber was in the CHL with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees that he found out he had Mucin-1. During his preseason physical it was discovered that his creatinine level was abnormally high. Creatinine is a waste product that is the result of normal muscle use. The kidneys filter the creatinine from the blood and pass it into the urine.

“I ended up getting a biopsy done and they said that I had it,” he said. “I monitored it from then on.”

At that time, his glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was in the 55 range. GFR is the best way to measure kidney function. For instance, my wife, Dorothy, began peritoneal dialysis (PD) when her GFR reached 10. She had a transplant on Sept. 23, 2013 and her GFR now is in the mid- to high-60s.

Weisgerber’s kidney function kept declining until April 2018 when he ended up on PD.

“My kidney function was around five or six,” he recalled, “so they said I needed to do that.”

Kidney patients on PD hook up to a machine called a cycler for about eight hours at home every night. In short, the cycler drains toxins from the body through the use of fluids.

The cycler now is in Weisgerber’s past and he couldn’t be happier.

Weisgerber2“Obviously, a guy is going to be on medications for the rest of his life, and they can cause complications,” Weisgerber said. “But just to be able to live a normal life and not have to hook up to that machine . . . just the routine of having to go to bed at a certain time and having to be on that machine for eight hours, and hooking it up . . . just little things that you don’t realize.

“Before I got the transplant, I was super itchy from all the toxins; it was crazy. The most uncomfortable . . . just so, so itchy. One of the biggest things is that I don’t have that itching anymore.”

In Weisgerber’s case, it was hoped that PD would be beneficial and keep him going until later this year because a cousin was going through testing in the hopes of being a living donor.

However, PD wasn’t being as effective as it had been, which brings us to Jan. 25.

Weisgerber’s daughter, London, was playing in a hockey tournament and he was in the penalty box, running the clock. All of a sudden his phone rang; it was a number from Saskatoon. He didn’t answer it. It rang again. He still didn’t answer. When it rang a third time, he decided that it might be a good idea to see who was calling.

Well, it was Dr. Abubaker Hassan, a nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.

“Dr. Hassan said, ‘We have a kidney for you. . . . we need you up in Saskatoon,’ ” Weisgerber said. “It was like, holy moly.

“It was really unexpected. You’re scared; you don’t know what to expect. I have an uncle who had gone through it three years ago. He filled me in on everything but, still, you don’t know what to expect.”

When the call ended, Weisgerber went home, packed and headed for Saskatoon. He had surgery the next day.

“Everything went really well,” he said, noting that he spent 10 days in hospital before returning home. For now, he will visit Regina or Saskatoon once a week for bloodwork and checkups.

Weisgerber understands that his new kidney came from a “younger gentleman in Edmonton” who had died. The Weisgerbers will be in touch with the deceased donor’s family, something that is done, at least in the beginning, through a case worker.

Weisgerber plans on writing a letter, while Ty and London “are making pictures and everything.”

“We’re just super fortunate,” he said. “I’m just excited that a guy can live his life again and be somewhat normal here. They say it helps with their healing process, too. The whole thing is emotional.

“Obviously, it isn’t good that a person passed away. But it’s good that he was an organ donor and he does give a life.”

During the process leading up to a transplant involving a deceased donor, the recipient is told that there may well be a feeling of guilt because he/she actually is benefitting from someone else’s death.

Weisgerber said that hasn’t bothered him, but that “it does get a guy emotional, that you’re that fortunate to be able to be a match to that person . . . that he was an organ donor and he pretty much gave a guy a new chance at life.”

These days, Weisgerber’s focus is on getting on with his life, which means looking after a few rental properties and a return to his hockey team. As of Monday, he had missed three games; he expects to miss four more as the Warriors finish their regular season.

Transplant recipients take anti-rejection medications for the remainder of their lives, something that compromises their immune systems. As a result, Weisgerber has been told that it might not be a good idea for him to be in a dressing room or on a bus, at least not in the early days as his system adjusts to the changes.

“The plan is to be back for playoffs at the end of the month,” he said. “The way things are going and the way I feel I can’t see why I wouldn’t be. I’m really looking forward to getting back with the guys and having a long playoff run here.”

The Warriors (29-10-1), who were in first place for a lot of the season, were second in the 12-team league, two points behind the Regina Pat Canadians (29-7-5) and three ahead of the Saskatoon Contacts (27-13-2). Moose Jaw also went 5-1-1 at the Mac’s tournament in Calgary, where they dropped a 6-2 decision to the Calgary Buffaloes on New Year’s Day.

In terms of Weisgerber’s schedule, the surgery couldn’t have been scheduled at a better time. As he said: “It was absolutely perfect. It’s actually incredible that it happened then.”

The Warriors had 10 days off while he was away and his primary business — Epic Hockey — doesn’t start a new cycle until July when he begins working with midget AAA, junior and professional players who are preparing for new seasons. He also runs skill development camps, spring teams and conditioning camps for minor hockey players. During hockey seasons, he often travels to smaller communities to work with minor programs.

That all began after he spent one season as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers and two (2010-12) as an assistant with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.

It was after his stint in the WHL that he started Epic Hockey.

Now, with a renewed energy level, he can hardly wait to get back on the ice.

“You don’t really realize how you feel,” he said. “I was super tired all the time, didn’t have a lot of energy. You would work and do stuff but at the end of the day, as soon as you sat down, you’d be falling asleep. You always felt blah.

“You just do what you do. You don’t realize how bad you actually feel and how tired you actually are.”

And now when he’s at home, you can bet there will be more family movie nights, although Laurren, London and Ty will have to forgive him if he asks for flicks they’ve already seen.

These days, he promises to stay awake for the entire show.

So, kids, no spoilers. OK?