The virus had one of its best days yet. Holy smokes! . . . Positive tests on three teams in the WHL, which was forced to shut down two of the teams. . . . The World men’s curling championship shut down after positive tests in the Calgary bubble. Yes, in the bubble! . . . Warnings from the Vancouver Canucks’ team physician. . . . The virus bit the Colorado Avalanche, one NHL broadcasting team, the Toronto Blue Jays . . . On top of all that, Canada had its worst day since the start of the pandemic — yes, since the start! — with 9,255 new positives. Hey, we’re a mess up here but we’ll be fine because our government and health officials are monitoring things.
The WHL has shut down two more teams, with the Calgary Hitmen and Medicine Hat Tigers having joined the Kelowna Rockets with all team activities suspended.
Calgary’s team activities have been suspended because a player has tested positive. The Hitmen have been hanging their hats on the Tsuut’ina Nation just southwest of the city, practising and playing games at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex and living at the Grey Eagle Resort.
The Tigers, who are living with billets, played the Hitmen on Monday and “have been deemed a close contact,” the league said, so their team activities also have been suspended.
The league has suspended six regular-season games that were scheduled for Friday through Monday — Medicine Hat at Lethbridge and Calgary at Red Deer, from Friday; Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, on Saturday; Red Deer at Calgary, on Sunday; and Medicine Hat at Lethbridge and Calgary at Red Deer on Monday.
With Lethbridge and Red Deer having had those games scrubbed, the Hurricanes and Rebels instead will play each other three times this weekend. They played last night in Red Deer and are to meet tonight in Lethbridge and again Monday in Lethbridge.
Meanwhile, there also have been positive tests with the Rockets and Vancouver Giants but they won’t impact either team’s schedule.
The Rockets have been shut down since seven positives — four players, three staff members — were revealed on March 31. The new positive test is a player who was deemed a close contact from those seven positives and he is in isolation.
According to the WHL, all other Kelowna players and staff tested negative this week. They all have been in isolation so the latest positive doesn’t impact their scheduled return to team activities. If all goes well, that should happen on April 15.
The Vancouver player who tested positive was soon to be added to the roster. He was in quarantine before joining the team in Kamloops and, according to the WHL, “has not had contact with any members of the team cohort.”
Everyone else with the Giants tested negative this week, so team activities won’t be impacted.
The Vancouver Canucks still had 19 players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list when it was released on Friday afternoon. Three players off their taxi squad, three coaches and one other staff member also tested positive.
Before the list came out on Friday, Vancouver general manager Jim Benning and Dr. Jim Bovard, the team’s physician, met virtually with media members.
Here’s some of what was said . . .
“I think we’ll have the majority of our (injured) guys back when we start playing, outside of two or three guys.
“My conversations with the league are that we’re going to continue with our schedule at some point, and that we’re going to play all 56 games.
“We know the individual had gone to a place within the guidelines. That place was subsequently found to have cases of COVID . . . we’ve made it clear within our group there’s no culprit here aside form the (virus) itself.”
“We’ve had a whole range of what I’ve seen in COVID throughout my practice in the last year. Nothing unusual. Nothing different. There’s been nobody who’s needed to be hospitalized.”
“What we do know is that it is a variant. The process for determining what kind of variant is much more complex.”
“We’re moving out of the infection phase and into the dealing with symptoms and recovery phase. . . . For the most part, players are on the other side of this COVID-19. None were hospitalized, but family members are getting sick now.”
“The virus is tricky. It’s changing, and we need to change with it. If we could anticipate what it’s going to do next, our jobs would be much easier.”
“I can speak absolutely, emphatically to everybody out there . . . you do not want to get this virus, so do everything you can to not get this virus, not just for your sake, so that you’re not potentially passing it on to others.”
“If you’re sick, stay home. Isolate. It doesn’t matter what you’re sick with. Stay home and isolate.”
The NHL’s COVID-19 problems aren’t only in Vancouver. . . . The Colorado Avalanche cancelled its morning skate on Friday after learning Thursday that one of its players had tested positive. . . . D Bowen Byram was on the NHL’s protocol list when it was released on Friday. . . . The Avalanche went ahead with Friday’s game and beat the host Anaheim Ducks, 2-0. . . .
Meanwhile, F William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs will sit for at least a week after going on the protocol list on Wednesday after being yanked from a game against the Montreal Canadiens. That occurred after he was identified as a close contact with a potential positive case who isn’t involved with the team. . . .
The Pittsburgh Penguins visited the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in a game televised by the MSG Network. However, the network had to cancel its pregame show after hosts Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador went into COVID-19 protocol.
The Toronto Blue Jays placed OF Teoscar Hernandez on the injured list Friday after he was deemed to be a close contact to someone who tested positive outside of the team. . . . They also put LHP Ryan Borucki on the injured list due to side-effects to his COVID-19 vaccination. Then, during a 7-1 loss to the Anaheim Angels in Dunedin, Fla., Toronto pulled LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. after two innings because he also was experiencing side-effects from his vaccination.
According to Elite Prospects, Connor Bedard's 1.87 points-per-game will be the highest (minimum 15 games) by any player under 17 years old in League history. Surpasses Glenn Goodall's 1.65 in 1986-87 and Dan Lucas' 1.61 in 1974-75. https://t.co/O4meGkG3vv
The biggest story in the WHL this season to date is being written by F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats. The 15-year-old Bedard, the first overall selection in the 2020 bantam draft, scored twice in a 2-1 OT victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday, just three days after his grandfather, Garth, died in a two-vehicle crash on the Trans-Canada Highway near Sicamous, B.C. . . . “It’s not easy for me, obviously, and my family,” Bedard told reporters via Zoom, while fighting to hold back tears. “He is definitely who I play for now and will for the rest of my life. It’s a really special game and I know he’s watching me.” . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post was at the game and his story is right here.
The game signalled the end of Bedard’s first WHL season, as he now will return home to North Vancouver and spend some time with his family before joining Canada’s U18 team for the IIHF World championship in Frisco and Plano, Texas, April 26 through May 6. . . . Last night, he gave the Pats (6-6-3) a 1-0 lead 22 seconds into the second period and won it 49 seconds into OT on a PP. . . . Bedard finished with 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games. . . . He leads the seven-team Regina hub in points and is tied for the lead in goals. . . . F Jake Chiasson (8) had tied it for Brandon (11-2-2) at 1:20 of the third period. . . . The Wheat Kings had an eight-game winning streak snapped. . . . Brandon has points in nine straight now and has outscored its opponents 42-16 over that stretch. . . . G Roddy Ross stopped 33 shots for Regina.
F Gage Goncalves broke a 3-3 tie at 18:24 of the third period as the Everett Silvertips beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-3, in Kent, Wash. . . . He’s got seven goals. . . . F Cole Fonstad (6) gave Everett a 3-1 lead at 7:16 of the second period. . . . Seattle tied it on third-period goals by F Conner Roulette (6), at 11:46, and F Keltie Jeri-Leon (8), with his second of the game, at 14:42. . . . Everett (9-1-0) has won four straight. . . . Seattle is 5-5-0. . . .
G Mason Beaupit turned aside 35 shots to lead the host Spokane Chiefs to a 3-1 victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Beaupit, 17, picked up his first victory of this season and the second of his career. . . . This season, he is 1-2-1, 2.48, .919. . . . F Mason Mannek (5) gave Portland a 1-0 lead at 6:31 of the first period. . . . D Bobby Russell (2) pulled Spokane into a tie 39 seconds into the second period and F Adam Beckman (5) gave the Chiefs the lead at 3:14 on a PP. . . . F Cordel Larson (2), who had two assists, got the empty-netter. . . . The Chiefs (2-4-3) have points in four straight (2-0-2). . . . The Winterhawks (4-4-2) have lost three in a row. . . .
F Ryder Korczak scored twice and added an assist to help the Moose Jaw Warriors to a 6-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos in Regina. . . . Korczak has three goals this season. . . . The Warriors (7-7-1) got a goal and two assists from each of D Daemon Hunt (6) and F Riley Krane (2). . . . Krane broke a 1-1 tie at 8:37 of the second period with the first of five straight Moose Jaw goals. . . . The Broncos (3-11-1) have lost four in a row. . . . This game marked Jason Ripplinger’s first as Moose Jaw’s general manager. He was promoted from AGM on Thursday, replacing Alan Millar, who now is with Hockey Canada. . . .
In Kamloops, the Blazers scored the game’s last four goals and beat the Victoria Royals, 6-3. . . . Kamloops led 2-0 after one period but couldn’t hold it. F Brayden Tracey (5) gave the Royals (1-5-1) a 3-2 lead 48 seconds into the third period. . . . D Quinn Schmiemann (2) pulled Kamloops (5-1-0) even at 2:00 and F Reese Belton (1) broke the tie at 3:44. . . . F Orin Centazzo (3) had two goals and an assist for the Blazers, with F Connor Zary adding his third goal and two assists. . . . G Dylan Ernst stopped 15 shots to earn his first WHL victory in his first start. Ernst, who turned 17 on Feb. 6, is from Weyburn, Sask. He was a second-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . Victoria G Connor Martin blocked 47 shots. . . .
F Dino Kambeitz had four points to lead the Lethbridge Hurricanes to a 6-3 victory over the Rebels in Red Deer. . . . Kambeitz scored his third goal and added three assists in enjoying his first career four-point game. It was his 201st regular-season game. . . . The Hurricanes (4-6-2) had lost their previous five games (0-3-2). . . . The Rebels, who have lost seven in a row, are 2-10-2. . . . Lethbridge was 3-for-6 on the PP. . . . D Alex Cotton scored twice — he’s got four goals — and added an assist for the Hurricanes, who led 6-1 in the third period.
The World Curling Federation and Curling Canada announced late Friday that they “are aware of positive COVID-19 tests within the Calgary bubble” at the World men’s championship. . . . While the positives tests didn’t involve teams that qualified for the playoffs, the schedule has been placed on hold “until there is more clarity.” . . . That includes a playoff game between the U.S. and Switzerland that was to have been played Saturday morning at 9 MT. . . . The playoff qualifiers are to undergo testing Saturday morning and “until the results are clear and it’s known that the players and event staff are safe, no further games will be played.” . . . Those who tested positive and close contacts are in quarantine, while contact tracing continues. . . . Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun tweeted that the “positives came from ‘exit’ testing, conducted so that players could fly home to their countries.”
Dennis (Red) Gendron, the head coach of the U of Maine Black Bears hockey team, died on Friday afternoon while playing golf. Gendron, the head coach there since 2013, was 63. . . . He was an assistant coach with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils when the won the 1995 Stanley Cup and also coach in their organization. . . . Gendron also coached the U.S. national junior team on three occasions.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
NHL team executives or talking heads for the league saying "hockey is secondary" everytime a COVID-19 outbreak occurs hits extremely hollow. If hockey is secondary to health, there wouldn't be games. Potential outbreaks were always part of the deal to play again.
F Brandon Lisowsky broke a 3-3 tie in the third period to help the Saskatoon Blades to a 5-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in Regina. . . . Lisowsky’s fifth goal of the season cameat 12:50 and F Caiden Daley (6) added the empty-netter. . . . The Raiders (4-8-2) had erased a 3-1 deficit on PP goals from F Reece Vitelli (4) at 14:23 of the second and F Dallyn Peekeekoot (2) at 16:01. . . . Peekeekoot added two assists to his goal. . . . F Tristen Robins had a goal, his eighth, and three assists for the Blades (10-2-2), who had lost three in a row (0-2-1). . . . Saskatoon is 3-0-0 against Prince Albert in the Regina hub.
The Frozen Four, which ends Saturday with the NCAA declaring a men’s hockey champion, played its semifinals on Thursday in Pittsburgh. . . . The UMass-Amherst Minutemen got past the defending-champion U of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, 3-2 in OT, in the nightcap. . . . F Garrett Wait got the winner at 14:30 of the first extra period . . . UMass had a 13-2 edge in shots in OT after being outshot 36-15 in regulation. . . . The Bulldogs were without Ryan Fanti, their sophomore starting goaltender due to COVID-19 protocols. Freshman Zach Stejskal got the start. . . . The Minutemen were without starting G Filip Lindberg, third-stringer Henry Graham and F Carson Gicewicz, their leading goal scorer. Equipment manager Zac Steigmeyer was added to the roster and backed up senior Matt Murray. . . . After Thursday’s game, UMass revealed that Lindberg, Graham and Gicewicz have cleared protocols and will rejoin the team today. If they test negative today and Saturday morning, they will be good for the final. . . .
In the first semifinal, F Nolan Walker broke a 4-4 tie with 53.2 seconds left in the third period to give the St. Cloud State Huskies a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota State Mavericks. . . . For more on the Frozen Four, visit collegehockeynews.com.
Jason Ripplinger is the new general manager of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Ripplinger, 45, joined the Warriors prior to the 2017-18 season as assistant general manager. . . . Prior to that, he spent 16 seasons with the Vancouver Giants, first as a scout and then as director of player personnel. . . . In Moose Jaw, he takes over from Alan Millar, who has left the Warriors to join Hockey Canada as director of player personnel for the Program of Excellence.
Former NHL coach Dave Allison is expected to be named general manager and head coach of the Fort Frances Lakers of the seven-team junior A Superior International Junior Hockey League. Allison, a 61-year-old native of Fort Frances, has been coaching since 1986. . . . He spent part of the 1995-96 season as head coach of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, having replaced Rick Bowness in midseason. . . . In recent years, Allison spent four seasons (2014-18) as head coach of the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers and two seasons in Europe. He started this season as head coach of DVTK Jegesmedvek in Slovakia, but was replaced in January. . . . In Fort Frances, Allison replaces Bernie Lynch, who was fired on Jan. 2 due to what the team said was “a clear breach of applicable codes of conduct.”
Bob Nevill, once a scout with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, has died in Brandon. He was 81. . . . He was a well-known figure on Brandon’s sporting scene, having been an assistant coach with Brandon U’s basketball teams and later a basketball official. He also coached high school football in Brandon with the Crocus Plains Plainsmen. . . . Nevill’s son, Rhett, played 32 games on defence with the Rebels in 1998-99.
It was one week ago today (Tuesday) when F Adam Gaudette was removed from the ice during a Vancouver Canucks’ practice because of a positive test.
On Monday, Vancouver F Nils Hoglander was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, the 17th player off the roster to land there. Keep in mind that being on the list doesn’t mean a player has tested positive; he might have been deemed a close contact of someone who is positive.
There also are three coaches who have tested positive, while two players off the taxi squad are believed to have tested positive or been deemed as close contacts.
So far, D Jordie Benn, F Brock Boeser, F Tyler Graovac, F J.T. Miller, D Nate Schmidt, F Jimmy Vesey and F Jake Virtanen haven’t gone into protocol, although all are self-isolating.
The Canucks, who haven’t said a word about any of this since the original confirmation of Gaudette’s status, are believed to have been hit by the P.1 variant from Brazil.
The Canucks have had four games postponed by the NHL. Two others, scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, haven’t officially been scrubbed but are showing on the NHL schedule as having been postponed.
Still, Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, told The Canadian Press via email on Monday that he expects the Canucks to complete their 56-game schedule.
While admitting that the numbers are “concerning from a health and safety standpoint,” Daly wrote that they aren’t necessarily concerning “from a scheduling standpoint.”
Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, has spoken with his son Brandon, a veteran forward with the Canucks.
“We FaceTimed (Sunday) night,” Brent told Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, “and he was pretty down and out, feeling pretty sick. Brandon has tested positive and he’s got symptoms — body aches, headaches, chills — just like you have the flu. I guess each guy is different in terms of how it affects you, especially with this Brazilian variant. For younger people to get this sick, it’s scary.”
Brandon has moved to the basement of the family’s home, away from his pregnant wife and two young children, ages two and three.
“They were just told to get into quarantine and have the wife and kids go down to the rink to get tested every day,” Brent said. “There’s a lot to this, what the families have to do now. We’re keeping fingers crossed.”
As for a return to play, well, that’s got Brent wondering. As he told Francis: “”It’s not like you’re talking two or three guys. If all these guys have been sick and they have to be cap compliant, could the Canucks come back and play? I don’t know how they can do it.”
The AJHL has suspended the team activities of two more teams on Monday. That means the AJHL now has six of its 13 teams unable to partake in hockey activities. . . . The Camrose Kodiaks and Drumheller Dragons were in one cohort and the league says that “as the result of a positive COVID-19 test in the Camrose Kodiaks cohort . . .” both teams are suspended for 14 days, as per the league’s return-to-play protocol. . . . Earlier, the league did the same with the Drayton Valley Thunder, Grande Prairie Storm, Okotoks Oilers and Whitecourt Wolverines. . . . In normal times, the AJHL features 15 teams; however, the Canmore Eagles and Lloydminster Bobcats opted out of the return to play.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021 marks the 3rd Anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. Please join us on the COH Facebook page on April 6th at 4:30 pm for a virtual tribute service as we honor and pay tribute to the 2017-18 Humboldt Broncos.
Meanwhile, there were five games in the WHL on Monday. Some highlights . . .
F Dylan Guenther scored twice and added an assist as the Edmonton Oil Kings dumped the host Red Deer Rebels, 6-1. . . . He’s got 12 goals and 11 assists in 12 games. . . . The Oil Kings (12-1-0) swept the three-game weekend series, outscoring the Rebels (2-9-2), 20-4, in the process. . . . F Kaid Oliver (8) and F Jaden Luypen, Guenther’s linemates, each added a pair of goals. . . . Luypen has 10 goals in 13 games. He finished last season with nine in 64 games. . . . This was that line’s last game together as Guenther is preparing to go into isolation before joining Canada’s U18 team for the IIHF World championship in Texas. . . . Edmonton has won each of its last 17 regular-season meetings with Red Deer. . . . The Oil Kings scored three first-period goals while enjoying a 20-1 edge in shots. . . . G Sebastian Cossa stopped 15 shots in recording his 11th straight victory. Andrew Peard, the play-by-play voice of the Oil Kings, says that ties the franchise record set by Tristan Jarry (Nov. 14-Dec. 15, 2013). . . . F Dawson Seitz, the 20th overall pick in the 2020 bantam draft, made his WHL debut with Edmonton. . . . F Jake Neighbours of the Oil Kings is on a 12-game point streak, with five goals and 17 assists over that stretch. . . .
The Calgary Hitmen scored twice in the shootout to earn a 5-4 victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Each team scored once in each of the first two periods and twice in the third. . . . F Josh Prokop and F Riley Stotts scored in the circus for the Hitmen (6-6-2), with F Brett Kemp counting for the Tigers (9-3-1). . . . F Sean Tschigerl (6) had two goals for Calgary, which got three assists from F Riley Fiddler-Schultz, who enjoyed his first career three-point outing in his 111th game. . . . Tschigerl went into this season with five goals in 64 games over two seasons. He has six goals in 14 games this season. . . . F Oren Shtrom (3) scored twice for Medicine Hat. . . .
F Jagger Firkus scored in the fourth round of a shootout to give the Moose Jaw Warriors a 4-3 victory over the Pats in Regina. . . . F Ryker Evans (2) had given Regina (4-6-3) a 3-0 lead at 5:01 of the third period. . . . The Warriors (6-6-1) tied it on goals from F Kade Runke (1), F Josh Hoekstra (1) and F Eric Alarie (8), the latter scoring at 19:43. . . . Regina F Connor Berard had his career-opening point streak stopped at 12 games. He was credited with nine shots on goal. . . . Bedard scored in the second round of the shootout, only to have F Brayden Yager tie it. . . . Bedard will play two more games with the Pats before going into isolation prior to joining Canada’s U18 team. . . . All three games between these teams have needed extra time. The Warriors won the first one, 5-4 in OT, with the Pats taking the second, 3-2 in OT. . . .
The Brandon Wheat Kings ran their winning streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in Regina. . . . F Ridly Greig (5)broke a 2-2 tie with a shorthanded goal at 9:27 of the third period. . . . Greig scored after blocking a pair of shots on the same kill. . . . F Nolan Ritchie (6) had pulled the Wheat Kings (10-2-1) into a tie, on a PP, at 14:12 of the second. . . . F Justin Nachbaur (4) scored both goals for Prince Albert (4-7-2). . . . D Braden Schneider had the primary assist on each of Brandon’s first two goals. . . .
G Trent Miner recorded his third straight shutout as the Vancouver Giants beat the Blazers, 4-0, in Kamloops. . . . Miner finished with 30 saves, meaning he has stopped all 64 shots he has faced while in the Kamloops hub. . . . Miner is the second WHL goaltender to put up three straight shutouts this season, after Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips. . . . Vancouver and Kamloops each is 4-1-0. . . . The WHL record for consecutive shutouts is four and is held by Chris Worthy of the Flin Flon Bombers (Dec. 29, 1967 through Jan. 13, 1968). . . . F Zack Ostapchuk (2) scored the game’s first goal at 10:14 of the first period. F Justin Sourdif (1) and F Justin Lies (1) added second-period goals, with F Adam Hall (4) counting in the third. . . . Lies was ejected with a checking-from-behind major at 2:18 of the third.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
By Friday afternoon, the Vancouver Canucks had seven players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list and a taxi squad player identified as a close contact. There also was one unidentified coach who was confirmed as having tested positive.
A few hours later, it became apparent that things are going to get worse for a team that is headquartered in B.C., a province that is having serious issues with COVID-19. How bad is it? Well, we won’t really know until Tuesday because government and health officials don’t provide briefings or news releases on weekends, and this is the Easter weekend. The virus, however, doesn’t take weekends off and this is turning out to be a rough one for the Canucks.
Late Friday night, Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted that “as expected, additional positive cases have been determined with the Vancouver Canucks. It’s also believed a variant has been identified in some of the cases.”
TSN’s Farhan Lalji tweeted that “Brazilian P.1 variant likely in play here,” something that later was confirmed by Patrick Johnston of Postmedia.
Lalji also tweeted he was told “that in some cases team medical staff may have gone to the homes of players to administer IV treatments.”
As Johnston wrote: “That variant has been growing in number in B.C. over the past month and was recently identified as a major driver of an outbreak that originated in Whistler. Some research has shown the P.1 variant is as much as 2.5 times more transmissible than earlier strains of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”
There have been various reports that more positive tests among the Canucks are expected to be revealed on Saturday.
F Adam Gaudette went on the COVID-19 protocol list on Tuesday, with D Travis Hamonic joining him on Wednesday. Since then, D Alex Edler, G Braden Holtby, D Quinn Hughes, F Zack MacEwen and F Antoine Roussel all have gone on the list.
The NHL has postponed four Vancouver games, and it’s likely that there will be more. The Canucks are scheduled to next play on Thursday and April 10 in Calgary against the Flames.
Bad situation is getting worse. Canucks fearful more positive COVID tests coming. Vancouver area has become global hotspot for P.1 variant that originated in Brazil. NHL’s Bill Daly says “no consideration” yet to shortening Canucks’ season. https://t.co/LvSqpUB0jS
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The WHL said Friday that it had eight positives from 897 tests that were administered from March 27 through Friday. . . . The Kelowna Rockets experienced seven of those positives — four players and three staff members — so all team activities have been shut down for 14 days.
The WHL also said that one of its on-ice officials, who hasn’t worked a game since March 20, tested positive on one test, but was negative on a second test.
The league added that it is “awaiting test results for the Brandon Wheat Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Regina Pats” and will provide an update when they become available.
Through Friday, the WHL has had nine positives from 4,991 tests.
Also on Friday, the WHL announced some schedule changes. You are able to find those changes on the WHL’s website.
Meanwhile, there were six games on Friday . . .
G Gage Alexander turned aside 31 shots to lead the Winnipeg Ice to a 3-0 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in Regina. . . . Alexander, 18, from Okotoks, Alta., earned his first career shutout in his 12th career appearance, five of them this season. . . . He is 3-2-0, 2.01, .926 this season. . . . The Ice (7-4-0) scored the game’s first two goals after Raiders F Dallyn Peekeekoot was tossed with a charging major. . . . F Cole Muir (4) scored at 2:51 of the second period and F Owen Pederson made it 2-0 just 35 seconds later. . . .The Raiders are 3-6-2. . . . G Max Paddock stopped 15 shots for the Raiders in his first appearance since March 22. While Paddock was sidelined, the Raiders were down to one goaltender. That changed on Friday when they signed Max Hildebrand and had him on the bench in support of Paddock. That mean that Carter Serhyneko was given the night off. . . . Hildebrand, 16, is from Martensville, Sask. He was a 13th-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft. His father, Steve, is the Saskatoon Blades’ associate general manager. . . .
G Boston Bilous stopped 29 shots as the Moose Jaw Warriors beat Saskatoon, 4-0, in Regina, handing the Blades (9-1-1) their first regulation loss of this season. . . . The Warriors (5-6-1) went into the game having lost six in a row; the Blades had won seven straight. . . . Bilous, who turned 20 on Feb. 2, has four career shutouts, one of them this season. He had been yanked from each of his previous two starts, stopping four of 10 shots in a total of 10 minutes of play. . . . D Cole Jordan (2) scored the game’s first goal at 16:31 of the first period. . . . The Warriors put it away with three third-period goals, with D Denton Mateychuk and D Lucas Brenton both scoring his first WHL goal. . . . The game was played in 2 hours 7 minutes, the quickest game this season. . . . After the game, Les Lazaruk, the Blades’ radio voice, wrote at cjwwradio.com: “To say that (Blades’) head coach Mitch Love wasn’t happy is severely understating the fact. His post-game media availability lasted for just three questions and 42 seconds in total.” . . .
F Simon Knak scored twice, including his third shorthanded goal of the season, to lead the host Portland Winterhawks to a 6-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . The Winterhawks lead the WHL with five shorthanded goals. . . . Portland (4-1-2) scored the game’s last five goals. . . . Knak has seven goals this seaosn. . . . F Seth Jarvis (3) had a goal and two assists for Portland. . . . F Sasha Mutala (3) scored twice for the Americans (2-4-0). His second goal, 19 seconds into the second period, gave Tri-City a 2-1 lead. . . . F Jaydon Dureau (1) tied it on a PP at 15:22 of the second and Knak gave Portland the lead at 16:28, also on a PP. . . . D Nick Cicek also had a goal and two assists for Portland. . . .
The Everett Silvertips scored two third-period goals to skate away with a 3-1 victory over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . F Payton Mount (2) gave the Thunderbirds (4-3-0) a 1-0 lead on a PP at 6:27 of the first period. . . . Everett D Gianni Fairbrother (1) tied it on a PP at 8:11 of the second period and F Jacob Wright (3) broke the tie 49 seconds into the third. . . . F Cole Fonstad (4), who also had two assists, got the empty-netter. . . . Everett improved to 6-1-0. . . .
F Lucas Svejkovsky scored the game’s last two goals to help the host Medicine Hat Tigers to a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Hitmen. . . . Goals from F Ryan Chyzowski (6) and F Corson Hopwo (8) gave the Tigers (8-3-0) a 2-0 lead after one period. . . . F Josh Prokop (5) got Calgary to within one at 14:23 of the second. . . . Svejkovsky, who has eight goals, put it away with a pair of third-period PP scores. . . . The Hitmen are 5-6-1. . . . D Carlin Dezainde made his WHL debut with the Tigers. He is a grandson of Brian Carlin, who played one season (1970-71) with the Tigers. Carlin also played three seasons (1967-70) with the Calgary Centennials. . . . According to Bob Ridley, the veteran play-by-play voice of the Tigers, Medicine Hat has added a familiar name to its coaching staff. Ridley tweeted on Friday that “alumni Derek Dorsett has joined the Tigers’ coaching staff.” Dorsett, 34, played three seasons (2004-07) with the Tigers before going on to a pro career that included 515 NHL games. A neck injury forced him into retirement. He last played in 2017-18 with the Vancouver Canucks. . . .
The Edmonton Oil Kings scored the game’s last nine goals and beat the host Red Deer Rebels, 9-2. . . . The Oil Kings’ night included four goals in 82 seconds in the third period and a power-play that was 4-for-5. . . . The Oil Kings (10-1-0) have beaten the Rebels four times in this shortened season. Go back to last season and Edmonton has beaten Red Deer 15 straight times. . . . The Rebels now are 2-7-2. . . . Edmonton got a single-game franchise-record six points, including four assists, from D Logan Dowhaniuk, and a goal and three helpers from D Matthew Robertson. . . . Dowhaniuk now holds the franchise record for most points by a defenceman in one game. . . . F Josh Williams, F Jalen Luypen, F Carter Souch and F Jake Neighbours each had a goal and two assists. . . . The online game sheet shows Dowhaniuk with five points. However, Andrew Peard, the Oil Kings’ play-by-play voice, said an assist will be added to Dowhaniuk on Neighbours’ goal. . . . Dowhaniuk, an 18-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., has a goal and nine assists in 11 games. He had six points, including five assists, in 33 games his freshman season (2018-19), then put up two goals and 10 assists in 62 games in 2019-20. . . . Edmonton was without F Scott Atkinson, its captain, with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Rebels played a lot of the game with five defenceman after Blake Gustafson left with an undisclosed injury. Red Deer already was without D Chase Leslie and D Kyle Masters, both of whom are listed as week-to-week with undisclosed injuries.
The AJHL now has four teams locked down, with the Okotoks Oilers the latest to experience a positive test. The AJHL revealed on Friday that “as the result of a positive COVID-19 test by a member” of the Oilers, team activities had been suspended for at least 14 days. . . . That resulted in the Oilers’ games of April 2, 4 and 6 being cancelled. . . . The Oilers, who last played on Sunday when they edged the visiting Brooks Bandits, 2-1, joined the Drayton Valley Thunder, Grande Prairie Storm and Whitecourt Wolverines, who also have been shutdown because of positive tests. . . . The AJHL has yet to release a schedule of games after April 6.
The BCHL, which hadn’t played any games since Nov. 19, was back in action on Friday, with five games in five different communities. It was playing only exhibition games when things came to a halt in November. . . . Now it’s playing what it is calling a “pod season” with Friday’s games in Alberni Valley, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Penticton and Vernon. . . . On Thursday, the BCHL announced that there weren’t any positives from the first round of testing. All told, 439 players and staff were tested.
MLB announced on Friday that it had scrubbed the entire opening series between the New York Mets and Washington due to testing and contact tracing involving the Nationals. As of Friday afternoon, the Nationals had four players with positive tests, and five others and one staffer in quarantine after contact tracing. . . . The Mets and Nats were to have played in Washington on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. . . . The Mets will spend the weekend there, working out at Nationals Park, before leaving for Philadelphia on Sunday where they are scheduled to open against the Phillies on Monday. . . . The Nationals are scheduled to play host to the Atlanta Braves on Monday.
On April 7 we will celebrate Logan Boulet’s selfless decision that inspired more than 150,000 people to become an Organ & Tissue donor.
The Kamloops Blazers were to have visited the Kelowna Rockets on Tuesday night. However, that game didn’t happen after the Rockets were forced to put all team activities on hold after the organization experienced a positive test. . . . According to the WHL, “The positive COVID-19 test results belong to a hockey staff member . . . within the team cohort. No players within the team cohort have tested positive at this time.” . . . The WHL also said that it would provide further information “pending determination of close contacts and further test results.” . . . Upon its return to play, the WHL stated: “If a WHL club has one or more players or staff test positive for COVID-19 at any point in the season, the club will be required to suspend its club activities for a minimum of 14 days.” . . . It would seem, then, that the Rockets are done until at least April 13 unless this turns out to be a false positive. The Rockets are scheduled to play eight games from March 30 through April 13. . . . This is the second positive in the Kelowna organization. The WHL said on March 19 that a positive test had been found during the return-to-play testing phase. That individual and someone who was identified as a close contact had to self-isolate for 14 days, but it was business as usual for the rest of the team because it was determined not to have occurred during the season. . . .
The Rockets have played two games to this point — they beat the Victoria Royals 5-0 in Kelowna on Friday and lost 6-0 to the Vancouver Giants in Kamloops on Sunday. They next are scheduled to play on Friday against the Prince George Cougars in Kamloops. . . . The Rockets also announced on Tuesday that F Ethan Ernst is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair a scaphoid fracture. The scaphoid is a small bone in an area of the wrist that has poor blood supply, so the healing time may be longer than normal. Ernst, who turned 19 on Jan. 26, was pointless in two games this season. He was injured in Sunday’s loss to Vancouver.
Meanwhile, the QMJHL has scrubbed a Wednesday game that was to have had the Cape Breton Eagles play host to the Charlottetown Islanders. According to the Eagles, “Even though all Eagles players and staff have tested negative to COVID-19, the league is postponing the game as a precaution due to a few players experiencing flu-like symptoms.” . . . This move follows the cancellation of a game between the Eagles and Islanders that was to have been played on Sunday. That morning, the league said that “a few players from the Eagles experienced flu-liked symptoms and as a precaution, the QMJHL has cancelled the game. In the current context and as per QMJHL protocols, all Eagles’ players and staff will be tested for COVID-19 and put in preventive isolation prior to returning to regular team activities.”
These pandemic times can call for interesting manoeuvring to get players on the ice. Such was the case on Tuesday when the Spokane Chiefs announced that they have acquired F Mitchell Kohner from the Prince George Cougars “on a one-year loan agreement.” . . . The Chiefs have lost veteran F Jack Finley, who will be out at least six months once he has surgery to repair a should injury, so had room to add Kohner. “This is a unique situation where an American player wasn’t able to rejoin his team due to COVID restrictions . . .,” Scott Carter, the Chiefs’ general manager, explained in a news release. . . . Kohner, from Rosemount, Minn., turned 19 on Feb. 11. A 10th-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft, he had two assists in 49 games with the Cougars in 2018-19, then put up eight goals and six assists in 59 games in 2019-20. . . . Kohner is expected to being practising with the Chiefs in about a week, after clearing WHL protocols. . . . His playing rights will revert to the Cougars after this season. . . .
The Cougars also announced that F Ilijah Colina, who turned 21 on Feb. 18, “is no longer with the team due to personal reasons.” . . . He has played 200 regular-season games — 117 with the Cougars, 83 with the Portland Winterhawks — over five seasons with 27 goals and 52 assists. . . . Prince George has added D Hudson Thornton, 17, to its roster. He will complete his quarantine period and then join the team. From Winnipeg, Thornton had two goals and two assists in 23 games with the USHL’s Fargo Force this season. He was a second-round pick by the Cougars in the 2018 bantam draft.
The Brandon Wheat Kings got goals from seven different players en route to a 7-1 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in Regina on Tuesday night. . . . F Ridly Greig (3), F Ben McCartney (6) and F Reid Perepeluk (2) each had a goal and an assist. . . . Greig scored 22 seconds into the game and the Wheat Kings (7-2-1) built a 4-0 lead in the second period. . . .Brandon, which was 4-for-7 on the PP, has won four in a row. . . .Even with F Dallyn Peekeekoot making his WHL debut, the Raiders (3-5-2) were able to dress only 17 skaters, including 10 forwards. Peekeekoot, from Ahtahkakoop First Nation, Sask., was a 10th-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft. The Raiders announced his signing earlier Tuesday. . . . The Raiders had G Max Paddock back on the bench in support of Carter Serhyenko, who went the distance. . . . Raiders D Kaiden Guhle remains out with an undisclosed injury, while F Ozzy Wiesblatt, who has 11 points in nine games, also sat out this one. . . . F Kyle Crosbie, who turned 21 on Feb. 18, no longer is shown on the Raiders’ roster and apparently has left the team for personal reasons. He was pointless in six games. . . .
D Layton Feist scored at 4:33 of OT to give the Regina Pats a 3-2 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. The game was played in Regina with the Warriors designated as the home team. . . . Feist, who has three goals, had tied the game 2-2 at 12:34 of the third period. . . . The game’s first two goals came from 15-year-old skaters. F Connor Bedard (8), the first overall pick in the 2020 bantam draft, got Regina on the board at 10:29 of the second period. F Brayden Yager (3), the third-overall selection, tied the score at 1:59 of the third. . . . Bedard, who drew the lone assist on the winner, now has 19 points in 10 games; Yager, who turned 16 on Jan. 3, has seven points in 10 games. . . . F Eric Alarie (7) had Moose Jaw’s other goal. He scored seven goals in 61 games as a freshman in 2019-20. . . . The Pats improved to 4-4-2; the Warriors, who have lost five straight, are 4-5-1. . . . So just to go over that again — the Pats won on the road, while the Warriors won a home game that was played in Regina. Try explaining that to someone 10 years from now. . . .
F Eric Florchuk, who had a goal and two helpers, broke a 4-4 tie at 18:03 of the third period as the Vancouver Giants beat the Victoria Royals, 5-4, in Kamloops. . . . Flochuk, who has two goals, had drawn an assist on F Tristen Nielsen’s fifth goal in three games, this one on a PP, at 16:51 of the third. . . . The Royals (0-3-0) erased a 2-0 first-period deficit to hold leads of 3-2 and 4-3. . . . Nielsen also had an assist, giving him nine points in three games. . . . F Adam Hall (3) had two goals for the Giants (2-1-0), with F Justin Sourdif earning three assists. . . . F Brayden Tracey and F Taran Fizun each had a goal and an assist for the Royals (0-3-0). . . .D Alex Kannok Leipert, the Giants’ captain, played his 200th regular-season game.
Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post had a birthday on Tuesday. How did he celebrate? The same way he did a year ago. Well, not quite. This time, he wrote about what has changed over the past year, which, as he discovered, wasn’t much. . . . In fact, as he laments in this column right here, there isn’t much evidence to show that we the people are prepared to rid ourselves of this virus and that means that he may well be writing the same column a year from now, too. Unfortunately, he is correct.
F Adam Gaudette of the Vancouver Canucks left Tuesday’s practice after being informed that he had tested positive for COVID-19. The Canucks are scheduled to play the visiting Calgary Flames tonight (Wednesday). The Flames flew into Vancouver on Tuesday evening. . . . There will be more testing and contact tracing before a decision is made on tonight’s game. . . . F Jake Virtanen didn’t practise on Tuesday; the Canucks said he was ill, but didn’t indicate that it was virus-related. . . .
Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens played their first game since March 20 on Tuesday night, beating the visiting Edmonton Oilers, 4-0. F Jesper Kotkaniemi, who had been on the COVID-19 protocol list, scored one of the goals. F Joel Armia didn’t play as he remains on the protocol list.
Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., announced on Tuesday that Kevin Dickie has retired as its executive director of athletics. He spent 13 years at Acadia. That included three years as head coach of the Axemen hockey team for three seasons. . . . Before moving into administration, Dickie was a coach in the SJHL and WHL. He was the head coach of the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs for five seasons, then spent three seasons with the Axemen before joining the Saskatoon Blades as an assistant coach for 1999-2000. He took over as head coach the next season, a position he held for three seasons. . . . According to a news release, Dickie will leave his position after the USports annual general meeting in June. . . . That news release is right here.
If you missed it, the Texas Rangers opened up their home park — Globe Life Park— to fans on Monday night for an exhibition game with the Milwaukee Brewers. The park has a capacity of 40,300 and a big crowd was anticipated; attendance was announced at 12,911. . . . “Plenty of fans sat shoulder-to-shoulder, but large portions of the stadium were empty as the Rangers lost to the Brewers, 4-0,” reported Jonathan Zizzo in The New York Times. . . . Texas announced 3,484 new cases and 41 more deaths on Tuesday, increasing the seven-day totals to 28,667 and 688. . . . On Tuesday night, with the Brewers beating the Rangers, 6-3, attendance was announced as 10,859.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Mike Johnston, the vice-president, general manager and head coach of the Portland Winterhawks, ran his WHL regular-season victory total to 401 on Sunday as his guys beat the Chiefs 4-3 in Kent, Wash. This one will go into the books as a Portland home game thanks to the schedule that has been put together in the midst of this pandemic. The remainder of the Winterhawks’ home schedule is expected to be played in Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum, starting Friday with a visit by the Everett Silvertips.
But back to Johnston . . .
He became the 18th coach in WHL history with at least 400 coaching victories on Saturday night when the Winterhawks dumped the host Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-1.
Johnston, 64, has recorded all of his victories behind Portland’s bench. He is only the fourth head coach in WHL history to post at least 400 victories with one franchise. The others? Ken Hodge (Edmonton-Portland, 742), Brent Sutter (Red Deer, 526) and Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon, 465). While Ernie McLean put up 548 victories with the Estevan/New Westminster Bruins, he did it with two Bruins franchises — the one that relocated from Estevan and one that moved from Nanaimo.
Next up on the victory list for Johnston is Marcel Comeau (Calgary, Saskatoon, Tacoma, Kelowna, 411).
Other active coaches with at least 400 victories are Marc Habscheid of the Prince Albert Raiders, with 547; Sutter, 526; and Shaun Clouston of the Kamloops Blazers, 432. The Blazers, of course, have yet to play a game this season.
Habscheid has an opportunity to tie McLean for sixth place on the list tonight when the Raiders meet the Swift Current Broncos at the Brandt Centre in Regina.
Don Hay, who is on Johnston’s staff in Portland, leads the list, at 750, with Hodge second at 742.
Don Nachbaur, who has joined the Tri-City Americans as associate coach, is third, at 692, with Lorne Molleken fourth, at 626.
They are followed by Mike Williamson, 572; McLean, 548; Habscheid, 547; Sutter, 526; Pat Ginnell, 518; Jack Shupe and Peter Anholt, each 466; McCrimmon and Dean Clark, each 465; Bob Lowes, 453; Clouston, 432; Doug Sauter, 417; Comeau, 411; and Johnston, 401.
Please note that the figures involving active coaches are unofficial and subject to adjustments from the 2019-20 season should any of them have missed games while scouting or for any other reason. The WHL hasn’t yet updated its record book to include coaching records from that season.
G Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips had quite a weekend — two games and two shutouts. He stopped 22 shots on Saturday night in a 2-0 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs, then turned aside 18 shots in a 7-0 victory over the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash., on Sunday. Wolf now has 22 career regular-season shutouts, four of the WHL record that is shared by Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver, 179 games, 2005-09) and Carter Hart (Everett, 190 games, 2013-18). Wolf now has appeared in 129 games. . . . Wolf’s career GAA of 1.82 is second among goaltenders with a minimum of 100 games played. Kelly Guard (Kelowna, 115 games, 2002-04) holds the record of 1.73. . . . The Calgary Flames selected Wolf in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2019 draft. He has signed with the Flames. . . .
The Red Deer Rebels (2-6-2) got swept in a three-game series with the Edmonton Oil Kings on the weekend, losing 5-0 in Edmonton on Friday, 3-1 in Red Deer on Saturday and 5-2 back in Edmonton on Sunday. . . . The Rebels won’t play again until early April — the WHL hasn’t yet released the April schedule for the five Alberta teams — and they are without five players so can use the time off. F Ben King and F Kyle Masters were injured Friday and missed the next two games, but could return in two weeks. D Mason Ward apparently was injured Saturday, because he couldn’t go last night. D Joel Sexsmith last played on March 12, while F Jayden Grubbe, the team captain, won’t play again this season as he is to have knee surgery. . . . With three defencemen injured, the Rebels dressed five blue-liners on Sunday, two of them (Hunter Mayo and Jace Weir) 16 years of age. . . .
G Colby Knight of the Oil Kings earned his first WHL victory on Sunday in beating Red Deer. The victory allowed the Oil Kings to run their record to a WHL-leading 7-0-0. . . . “It feels amazing,” Knight, an 18-year-old from Red Deer, told Andrew Peard of oilkings.ca. “I had a dream about it last night and to have it happen, it’s just awesome.” . . . The Oil Kings selected Knight in the fifth round of the 2018 bantam draft. . . . Edmonton has won each of its last 14 meetings with Red Deer.
Our very own James Gallo (@jamesgallo2) is making his 1,000th broadcast in tonight's match-up with Saskatoon. Congratulations James!
Brent Brekke, the head coach of the St. Lawrence U men’s hockey team, has tested positive for COVID-19, meaning the Saints have had to withdraw from the NCAA championship tournament. . . . The Saints (4-8-3) won the Eastern College Athletic Conference title on Saturday night, beating Quinnipiac in the final after sidelining Colgate in a semifinal game. . . . “The roller-coaster of emotions in the last 24 hours for everyone is unimaginable,” Brekke said in a statement released by the school on Sunday. “(Saturday) night we are holding the trophy above our heads and today we are shaking our heads in disbelief that the season is over. This hurts.” . . . Quinnipiac, which had won the ECAC regular-season title, will replace St. Lawrence in the NCAA tournament.
As I watch the NCAA men’s basketball championship, I have to wonder why they bother having the coaches wear masks. I mean, what’s the purpose? . . . You have to know that a whole lot of coaches live in another world — they really are oblivious to the world outside their small circles — and they prove it with the way they handle masks. Embarrassing! . . . Perhaps hearing that Brent Brekke, the head coach of the St. Lawrence U men’s hockey team, has tested positive will be enough to make other coaches, no matter the sport, wear their masks properly at all times. Then, again, maybe not.
Spotted this headline on Twitter on Sunday — Tiger Woods didn’t brake before car crash. . . . Perhaps someone can explain why this is news.
Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds’ all-star first baseman, rejoined the team on Sunday for the first time since March 10. Votto, 37, left spring training in Goodyear, Ariz., after testing positive. . . . Votto indicated that doesn’t have any idea when he will be ready to play again, or whether he will be in the Reds’ starting lineup when the season opens on April 1.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Let’s start with a couple of stories involving old friends.
Andy Murray and I go back a long way . . . when I was getting started at the Brandon Sun, he was the starting QB for the Brandon U Bobcats, a ragtag football team full of guys who sure had a lot of fun. He also was a star forward on the Bobcats hockey team.
Murray, of course, went on to a lengthy coaching career and now is the head coach of the Western Michigan U Mustangs. On Monday, Bods (@Bods27) posted three tweets involving Murray, and the story is just too good not to share.
“Since it’s the anniversary of Miracle on Ice, I’ll share a story about it.
“We were on a road trip to Miami several years ago and watching Miracle on the way down. We get to Goggin (the arena in Oxford, Ohio) with about 20 minutes or so left in the movie.
“The guys on the bus want to finish it since we were just going to unload the bus, not practice or anything like that. Coach Murray stands up and abruptly shuts off the DVD player. The guys all boo him.
“Murray simply looks down the aisle of the bus and says ‘In Canada, we don’t need to make movies about things that happen every four years,’ and then walks off the bus.”
O Canada . . .
And that brings us to old friend Murray Rauw, who died in Calgary on Sunday night after a long illness. We were part of the fun bunch in the sports department at the Winnipeg Tribune in the mid-1970s. Swamp Dog, as we called him, was one of those special people with a big, big heart and a laugh I’ll never forget.
Here’s a story from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, who was then writing out of Edmonton while Murray was covering the Stampeders for the Calgary Herald. . . .
“One of my favourite sports writing stories involved Murray Rauw, and then Stampeders head coach Wally Buono.
“I was down in Calgary for a game, and walked into Buono’s office after practice for his daily gab with the media. Murray, the Herald beat guy, was ill, and on leave.
“When I arrived, all the seats were taken but for a chair right in front of Wally’s desk. I hesitated in the doorway, wondering why that prime seat would be open.
“Wally noticed, quietly put up his hand as a stop sign, and said: ‘We’re saving Murray’s seat for when he comes back.’
“No scribe sat in that chair for weeks.
“I’m not sure if that story says more about Wally or Rauwser, but I consider myself lucky to have known both.”
Condolences to Maureen and family. Be safe.
Sad news on the Calgary Stampeders’ front. Former Calgary Herald co-worker Murray Rauw, who covered the Stamps for nearly 2 decades, passed away peacefully on Sunday night. Condolences to his wife Maureen and 2 children on the loss of a special person. pic.twitter.com/fKF9psj77t
It almost has been a month since F Kyrell Sopotyk of the Kamloops Blazers suffered a devastating injury while snowboarding near North Battleford, Sask. He was left paralyzed below the waist and remains in a Saskatoon hospital. . . . A GoFundMe effort had raised $195,868 as of Monday evening, with the money ticketed to his family to use for expenses, including whatever home renovations may be required.
On Monday, Lori Sopotyk, Kyrell’s mother, posted this update:
“Our family would like to express the immense gratitude and thanks for the overwhelming support and kindness during this tough time. Kyrell is working towards months of recovery with his medical and rehab team at Saskatoon City Hospital.
“We ask that you please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers on his long journey ahead. The incredible support of family, friends and the community makes a huge difference in Kyrell’s road to recovery and maintaining a positive attitude.
“Thank you to everyone for your support and generosity whether it be through cards, calls, texts, donations, food or the purchase of decals.”
If you haven’t donated and would like to, the page is right here.
In this 1970 photo taken in Flin Flon, Manitoba, a young Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach meet Prince Charles.
The 15-team AJHL announced on Friday that it has been given the OK to return to play, although it didn’t reveal a schedule or a start date. On Sunday, the Canmore Eagles announced that they are opting out “due to challenges in meeting the requirements of the approved Return-to-Play Plan and of existing restrictions due to COVID-19.” . . . A news release on the AJHL website added: “We have worked tirelessly through several options not only within the town of Canmore, but also exploring possible solutions to work with other communities. Regrettably, we have not been able to arrive at a workable solution.” . . . The Eagles were hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 in late November, one that resulted in at least 16 positive tests within the organization and some community transmission. Andrew Milne, the Eagles’ general manager and head coach, did some resulting media interviews in which he candidly discussed what the team had gone through. The AJHL followed by hitting him with a 15-game suspension and a $1,000 fine for “bringing discredit to the league.”
Thanks to the support of @YourAlberta, the WHL is pleased to partner with the AJHL & RE/MAX to deliver the Jackpots for Junior Hockey 50/50 campaign.
The New York Times — President Biden honored the “truly grim, heartbreaking milestone” of 500,000 lives lost to the coronavirus at the White House on Monday. “The people we lost were extraordinary,” Biden said.
The New York Times — The United States reached a staggering milestone on Monday, surpassing 500,000 known coronavirus-related deaths in a pandemic that has lasted almost a year. The nation’s total virus toll is higher than in any other country in the world. It has far surpassed early predictions of loss by some federal experts. . . . The United States accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s known Covid deaths, but makes up just 4.25 percent of the global population.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 9:37 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,720 have died from coronavirus; 854,190 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 9:37 p.m. PT — United States: 500,236 people have died. . . . 28,188,311 have tested positive.
CBC News — Manitoba announced 97 new cases of COVID-19, up slightly from the province’s 7-day average of 92. The test positivity rate for the last week is 5.4%. The province has also had 2 additional deaths.
CBC News — B.C. has confirmed 1,428 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths from the disease over the last three days. There are 223 people in hospital with the disease, 63 of whom are in intensive care.
CBC News — Alberta reports 273 new COVID-19 cases, 16 more deaths from illness. Variant cases account for about 3.5% new infections in the province this month, Dr. Hinshaw says.
CBC News — Saskatchewan reports 177 new COVID-19 cases, up from the province’s 7-day average of 158. Announcement comes after province says it has reached agreement with pharmacists to help administer vaccines for the virus.
CBC News — Newfoundland and Labrador announces 14 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest total in 6 days and well below the 7-day average of 34. The number of recoveries is exceeding the number of new cases, a development the chief medical officer calls ‘encouraging.’
CBC News — Nunavut has 12 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, all in the small fly-in community of Arviat on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay. It’s the 1st time the territory has seen a double-digit daily increase since January 24.
CBC News — 805 new COVID-19 cases in Quebec as number stays below 1,000 for 9th straight day while 7-day average rises slightly to 773. Authorities are also attributing 11 additional deaths to the virus.
CBC News — Ontario reports 1,058 new COVID-19 cases, 5th day in a row number has exceeded 1,000. 7-day average up slightly to 1,045. Authorities also say there have been 11 more deaths. However, the number of hospitalizations and ICU patients continues to fall.
KTVZ NewsChannel 21 — Gov. Kate Brown today ordered all flags at Oregon public institutions to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Friday in memory of the more than 500,000 Americans who have lost their lives due to COVID-19. This includes 2,155 Oregonians.
National Geographic — In 2020, the U.S. saw a more than 15 percent increase in deaths over the prior year, the highest year-on-year rise in deaths across the U.S. since 1918, which experienced both a global flu epidemic and the First World War
KOMO News — Washington State health officials reported almost 1,200 more COVID-19 cases, 77 hospitalizations and 35 deaths in the past two days as the United States reached a grim COVID-19 milestone. State officials have reported 334,962 cases, 19,110 hospitalizations and 4,857 deaths since the pandemic began.
The New York Times — More Americans have died from Covid-19 than did on the battlefields of World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.
Sooner or later, our lives are going to be able to return to some sense of normalcy, which will include being able to go back into arenas to enjoy hockey games, concerts and other shows. But what will the interior of those arenas look like? Well, the City of Kent is spending about $545,000 on the accesso ShoWare Centre to make it a “safer environment for fans,” as Steve Hunter of the Kent Reporter writes right here. . . .
It was in November when Iona men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino pleaded with the NCAA to move the start of the season to March “and then have May Madness” because of the pandemic. The NCAA wasn’t listening. On Monday, Iona announced that the men’s team won’t be able to play its last five regular-season MAAC games because it doesn’t have enough healthy players. The Gaels (8-5) hope to play in the MAAC tournament that begins on March 8. . . . Earlier, Iona had a 51-day layoff, between Dec. 23 and Feb. 12, because of COVID-19.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: The Moose Jaw Warriors are in the market for a general manager after Alan Millar announced that he is leaving to join Hockey Canada as director of player personnel. Millar joined the Warriors as director of hockey operations in 2010, then was named GM in 2012. Millar isn’t a stranger to Hockey Canada, having worked with the U-18 program for two years and then the U-20 team last year.
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. . . .
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 its 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.”
Am told by Alberta Health that provinces new measures should not affect Hockey Canada’s training camp in Red Deer. Exemptions for sport’s activities need to be in place by Friday, but the two sides have been working together on safety protocols for some time…/
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 recently 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 of 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.
In the QMJHL, the Charlottetown Islanders have had to pause their schedule for at 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.
The Kitchener Rangers reported a net loss of $83,736 for the 2020 fiscal year at the team’s annual general meeting tonight. First time the club has failed to record a profit in 25 years. Last year, club made $335K. https://t.co/its8qCFtcW
“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.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Canadian responses to the covid second wave continue to mystify me. Why do we continue to pursue Canadian exceptionalism? Why not take the lessons from East Asia, NZ, And Aust seriously? Half measures won’t cut it and will prolong pain and uncertainty. #COVIDzero
The fact that Fred succumbed in his old age to Covid is especially sad given how much this man had to sacrifice in his life just to be treated half-way equally, yet so many are seemingly unable to sacrifice even putting on a little cloth mask at the mall during a pandemic. https://t.co/JvJdbyZFp6
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.
Ken Squier Update: After a challenging few days, the doctors now say they expect him to beat this. He is still very weak, but getting wonderful care. Keep those prayers coming, friends. They’re working.
There's nothing funny about the Ravens current covid-19 outbreak. What is funny is the NFL statement on it: Thursday's game still on (of course) but, 'our main concern is the health and safety of everyone.' Their major concern is having a primetime game for TV Thursday. Period.
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. . . .
90% of the Hockey East schedule is essentially wiped out at this point until at least mid-December.
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.
My boys and I are loving the Tim Horton hockey card collection this year. Next year, I would like to see a special Fred Sasakamoose card as a tribute for being an Indigenous pioneer in the game of hockey. You could do a subset of all pioneers in the game. @TimHortons
The Brandon Wheat Kings announced Tuesday that they have promoted Don MacGillivray 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.
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 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.
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 andasked 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 hoping 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.
Kelly Olynyk has scored 41 pts off the bench in the last two games of the NBA Finals.
Over the last 30 years, the only player with more points off the bench in a two-game span in an NBA Finals is Jason Terry in 2011. Who did that come against?
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.
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