WHL’s off-ice season begins today . . . Bedard gets exceptional status . . . Cranbrook Bucks have their GM/coach

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The WHL will hold its inaugural two-round U.S. prospects draft today (Wednesday), along with its annual bantam draft lottery. . . . The lottery, which won’t be streamed live, is to be held at 11 a.m. (MT) and will originate from the WHL office in Calgary. The U.S. prospects draft will be held online, starting at 2 p.m. MT. . . .

Meanwhile, the WHL announced that it has cancelled its annual awards show and changed the date of its bantam draft. . . . The awards show was to have been held in Red Deer on May 6. . . . The bantam draft that was scheduled for Red Deer on May 7 now will be held online on April 22. . . .



In loading up for a run at the 2020 Memorial Cup, no one went to the lengths as did the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats and Chicoutimi Sagueneens. The Wildcats, under general manager Ritchie Thibeau, traded for three star players, giving up 13 draft picks and a prospect. Chicoutimi GM Yanick Jean bettered that by adding five players for 18 picks, seven of them first-rounders, and two players. . . . And, of course, there won’t be any playoffs in the QMJHL, nor will there be a Memorial Cup. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reviews the situation involving the two big buyers right here. . . .


Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported Tuesday morning that “the NHL is temporarily cutting the pay of league office employees by 25 per cent.” . . . The cuts will come into play on April 1. . . . Kaplan wrote, “According to sources, the NHL is hoping that the temporary pay cut among league office employees will prevent layoffs during this uncertain time.” . . . The NHL had 189 games remaining in its regular season when it halted play on March 12. . . .

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The owners of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers had told salaried employees that they would be hit with pay cuts of 20 per cent and would be moving to four-day work weeks. . . . However, on Tuesday, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, reversed course. . . . “Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation,” Josh Harris, HBSE president, said in a statement. “As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries. . . . To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting this wrong.” . . .

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Groupe CH, which owns the Montreal Canadiens and the AHL’s Laval Rocket, has announced layoffs that will affect 60 per cent of the employees in the organization. The layoffs will begin on Monday. . . . From a report by The Canadian Press: “Groupe CH says it has established a $6-millon assistance fund to help employees. The organization says the fund will help enhance employment insurance benefits for eight weeks, ensuring that employees will receive 80 per cent of their base salary for that period. The fund also will provide loans to employees in difficult financial situations.” . . .



Janet Brown of Vancouver radio station CKNW tweeted Tuesday morning that “White Spot restaurants has laid off about 3,000 employees in last week . . . owner Ron Toigo says restaurant industry was already hurting . . . he uses the words ‘bleak and staggering’ describing impact of COVID-19.” . . . Toigo also is the majority owner of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . .



Former Boston Bruins star Johnny Bucyk was to have had a hip replaced this week, but — guess what! — yes, the surgery was postponed. Dave Stubbs of nhl.com caught up with Bucyk, who is 84, and wrote this story right here. . . . You will enjoy this one. I guarantee it. . . .


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” . . .


The headline on the IIHF website reads: Ireland Coaches Italy. . . . Seriously. . . . Greg Ireland has signed on as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . Ireland, 54, takes over from Clayton Beddoes, who resigned earlier this year. . . . Ireland has been the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL since January. . . . Prior to that, he spent three seasons as the head coach of Switzerland’s HC Lugano. . . .



BC Hockey announced Tuesday that F Connor Bedard has been granted exceptional status, so the 15-year-old will be eligible to play full-time in the WHL next season. Bedard, from North Vancouver, is the first player granted such status for WHL play. . . . Bedard, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, had 84 points, including 43 goals, in 36 games for West Vancouver Academy’s midget prep team this season. . . . The WHL bantam draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, WHL teams were allowed to use a 15-year-old in only five games before his club team had its season end. However, the Winnipeg Ice got F Matthew Savoie into 22 games, turning that ‘rule’ into something of a fallacy. Savoie, who applied for exceptional status by Hockey Canada but didn’t get it, finished with seven points, all of them assists. . . .

Two other players — F Riley Heidt and F Brayden Yager — also applied for exceptional status in the hopes of playing in the WHL next season as 15-year-olds. They both are from Dundurn, Sask., and both played with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Heidt had 17 goals and 20 assists in 44 games; Yager had 18 goals and 24 assists in 44 games. . . . There was no mention of either in the announcement involving Bedard. . . .

Bedard is the seventh player to have been granted exceptional status, after Sean Day, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Shane Wright, all of whom played in the OHL, and Joe Veleno, who played in the QMJHL. . . .


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Ryan Donald is the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who are scheduled to begin play in the BCHL in 2020-21. The Bucks have signed Donald to a four-year contract. . . . Donald, who is from Edmonton, has been an assistant coach at Yale U for five seasons. Earlier, he played at Yale for four seasons. . . . “Ryan is an incredible hire for our club,” Bucks owner and president Nathan Lieuwen said in a news release, “and is absolutely the right person to build this franchise. “Not only does he have quality experience coaching at high levels, but he also has great connections throughout the NCAA.”


Ryan Oulahen has been named head coach of the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. He signed a three-year contract. . . . Oulahen had been the interim head coach since Dec. 10, when he replaced Stan Butler. . . . A former captain of the Battalion when the franchise was based in Brampton, Oulahen spent two seasons (2016-18) as head coach of the Flint Firebirds. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with the Battalion for five seasons. . . . Butler had been the Battalion’s head coach since 1998-99. . . .


Scattershooting on a Tuesday night as Cranbrook celebrates the birth of the Bucks . . .

Scattershooting

As of Saturday evening, Const. Mike Seel of the Regina Police Service Traffic Unit, who goes by the nickname Hawkeye, had written 1,097 cell-phone related tickets in 2019 and, he told me via Twitter, “over 1,500 total tickets for the year.” Think about those numbers for a moment. . . . What’s with the nickname? According to a story by Michaela Solomon of CTV News Regina, it was “given to him by the former face of RPS traffic, Const. Curtis Warnar, for his ability to catch drivers on their cell phones.” . . . Meanwhile, more than 2,000 speeding tickets were handed out to drivers in Regina school zones in the month of September, with the speed limit having been dropped from 40 km/h to 30. . . . “It is ridiculously high,” Sgt. Rob Collins of the RPS’s Traffic Safety Unit told Lynn Giesbrecht of the Regina Leader-Post. “In all reality, most of the tickets that I’ve seen issued would’ve been a ticket even if it was still 40, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do.” . . . It seems the drivers of Regina have a lot of work to do, too.


If you are a follower of the WHL, there was good news on Friday when Corey Graham revealed via Twitter that “I’m back calling Edmonton Oil Kings home games on TSN 1260.” . . . Graham, who continues his recovery from some major health issues, will handle home games, with Andrew Peard providing analysis. Peard will call the play of all road games. . . . Graham added that he is “really excited to get back in the booth!” . . . Corey, we’re all excited for you. Welcome back!


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“Jim (Mattress Mack) McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston, placed a $3.5-million bet on the Astros to win the World Series,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “And, doubling down, he rolled out his latest mattress, the George Springer.”

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Perry, again: “Scientists at the National Defense Medical College in Japan say they’ve created artificial blood that works better than the real stuff. Didn’t pro rasslers already do that?”


Is the WHL thumbing its nose at Hockey Canada, while at the same time inviting 15-year-whlolds to come to its teams and play at least 30 games? . . . According to a story by Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press, the WHL has granted an exemption to the Winnipeg Ice so that F Matt Savoie, 15, can play 34 games this season. Ordinarily, 15-year-olds are allowed to play five games before their club team’s season ends, at which time they may join the WHL team on a full-time basis. . . . Prior to this season, Hockey Canada rejected the Savoie family’s application for exceptional status. . . . Savoie played his third WHL game of this season on Friday night; he wasn’t in the lineup on Saturday.



The Winnipeg Ice played two home games, its second and third of this season, last weekend. The announced attendances were 1,373 (7-0 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings) and 1,327 (4-0 loss to the Vancouver Giants). . . . In its home-opener, the Ice announced 1,621 for a 4-2 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . If you were wondering, the Kootenay Ice announced crowds of 2,862, 2,375 and 2,287 for its first three home games last season. . . . You remember the Kootenay team, don’t you? It played out of Cranbrook.


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The brand new Cranbrook Bucks of the BCHL have merchandise ready for fans at Western Financial Place.
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The Kootenay Ice sign on a wall at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook is gone, marking the end of an era.
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Hockey fans in Cranbrook gathered Tuesday morning to welcome the junior A Bucks to their Kootenay community. (Photos: Darren Cottingham/Taking Note)

Speaking of Cranbrook, a group headed by former WHL G Nathan Lieuwen announced Tuesday that it will bring the junior A BCHL to the city next season when the Bucks begin operation. . . . In reading the story by Trevor Crawley of the Cranbrook Townsman, I was struck by this: “The city was left reeling after a messy break-up with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice last January. After 21 years in Cranbrook, new ownership relocated the team to Winnipeg and still (has) an outsanding lease agreement valid until 2023. (Mayor Lee) Pratt confirmed the city remains in negotiations with the Ice over the agreement.” . . . The WHL and the Ice announced on Jan. 29 that the franchise was relocating to Winnipeg. Of course, observers had realized long before then that the Ice owners were going through the motions and that they were done with Cranbrook. . . . Here we are, almost nine months later, and the lease still hasn’t been settled. You are free to wonder if anyone in the WHL is embarrassed by any of this.


Hey, Edmonton, that 100 km/h speed limit on Anthony Henday Drive . . . that’s not the speed limit; it’s a guideline. Right?


After driving more than 4,000 km through the Prairies and back, I can tell you that the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding contains far more election signage than any other one we passed through. . . . Yes, it’s all a blight on the scenery.


After the Chicago Cubs dumped manager Joe Maddon, Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot pointed out just what a horrid job Maddon had done: “In five seasons under Maddon, Chicago won 58 percent of its games, reached the playoffs four times and celebrated a long-awaited World Series victory. What a failure he was.”



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OH DEER! Bob Tory, the GM of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, posted the evidence on his Facebook site after hitting a couple of deer while on a scouting trip.

A note from Bob Tory, the general manager of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, to accompany a couple of photos that he put on his Facebook page: “That time of year. Two deer down. One car down.” . . . Thankfully, Tory wasn’t injured in the collision. Word is that Trader Bob, as he once was known, did put brothers John and Jim Deer on the trade wire, though. No word yet on whether he found any takers.


Saw this in a column by Steve Simmons of Postmedia: “If Guy Carbonneau is going to the Hockey Hall of Fame, why not Dale Hunter? And if you want to go back a few years, why not 86-year-old Claude Provost, who won more and scored more playing a defensive role with the great Montreal Canadiens teams back when the Canadiens were great.” . . . I was absolutely flabbergasted to realize that Provost isn’t an honoured member of the Hall. Seriously. Had there been a Frank J. Selke Trophy back in the day, Provost would have owned it.


Headline from @SportsPickle: Have to think we could be a game or two away from Odell Beckham demanding a trade to the Giants.


If you aren’t a fan of the analytics that are sweeping through the world of sports, you just might be a fan of Bill Belichick. Asked the other day how much of a role analytics play in his game-planning, the New England Patriots head coach replied: “Less than zero.”


It’s true! Hay joins Winterhawks . . . Ice extends two coaches, trainer . . . Willms’ season ends before it starts


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F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2010-14) signed a one-year contract with Löwen Frankfurt (Germany, DEL2). Last season, he had two assists in 20 games with Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL), and nine goals and eight assists in 23 games with Ravensburg Towerstars (Germany, DEL2).


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Some reaction to the piece that appeared here yesterday advocating for the banning of fighting and headshots in the WHL:

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The final word, as it should, goes to a hockey mom . . .


As was reported here on Friday night, Don Hay has joined the Portland Winterhawks’ coaching staff as an assistant where he will alongside Mike Johnston, the vice-president, Portlandgeneral manager and head coach, and associate coach Kyle Gustafson.

Hay, the winningest regular-season and playoff coach in WHL history, spent the past four seasons as head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, a team with which he won three Memorial Cups in the 1990s. However, on May 10, majority owner Tom Gaglardi announced at a news conference that Hay had retired.

“Don Hay is a legend and it is only fitting that he is able to retire with his hometown Kamloops Blazers as the winningest coach in WHL history,” Gaglardi said in a news release. “Don leaves a storied legacy within junior hockey circles. His accomplishments are astounding and he will be forever regarded as one of the greatest coaches in junior hockey history. We are extremely grateful to have had Don return to the Blazers and be able to end his coaching career where it all began.”

The Blazers announced at the time that Hay would stay with the organization, as senior advisor, hockey operations.

Hay wasn’t in attendance at that news conference, and when he met with the media the next day he let it be known that he still wanted to coach.

The Winterhawks had a position come open with Danny Flynn, a veteran coach, signed on as an eastern Canadian scout with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Flynn, a longtime friend of Johnston’s, spent one season in Portland.

Johnston and Hay also are longtime friends, going back to the 1995 World Junior Championship. Hay was the head coach and Johnston an assistant with Team Canada, which won the gold medal in Red Deer.

“We are thrilled to add a coach of Don’s calibre to our staff,” Johnston said in a news release. “When I first approached Don about the idea I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be, but he was both interested and excited. Kyle and I have always had a good rapport with Don and feel he will definitely be a great addition to our group.”

Former Winterhawks’ head coach Ken Hodge had been the WHL’s winningest regular-season coach, with 742 victories, before Hay broke the record last season. Hay finished the season with 750 victories.

Johnston ran his total to 323 last season, becoming the 23rd coach in WHL history to surpass 300.

The Winterhawks are scheduled to play in Kamloops on Oct. 3 and 5.



The Kootenay Ice announced three contract extensions during a news conference on KootenaynewMonday morning in Cranbrook. Assistant coach Gord Burnett has a two-year extension, while Darcy Ewanchuk, the trainer and equipment manager, was extended for three seasons, and Nathan Lieuwen, the goaltending consultant and video coach, signed a two-year extension. . . . Burnett, from Regina, is heading into his fourth season with the Ice, while Ewanchuk, from Sherwood Park, Alta., is preparing for season No. 14. Lieuwen, from Abbotsford, joined the Ice prior to last season. He was a goaltender with the Ice from 2007-12. . . . The Ice also announced that James Patrick is returning for his second season as head coach, with Jon Klemm back as associate coach, and Roman Vopat as assistant coach. . . . The Ice also revealed that as of Monday morning they had sold 1,598 season tickets, “down 319 from 2017-18 and 902 below the Drive to 25 target announced in May 2017.” . . . The complete news release detailing all announcements from the news conference is right here.


Brody Willms of the Moose Jaw Warriors, one of the WHL’s top goaltenders, isn’t expected to play this season because of a hip injury. Alan Millar, the Warriors’ general MooseJawWarriorsmanager, made the announcement on Monday.

Willms, a 20-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C., was 37-11-4, 3.00, .898 in 54 appearances in leading the Warriors to their first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy — most points in the regular season — in 2017-18. He set a single-season franchise record with the 37 victories.

An eighth-round selection by Moose Jaw in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, Willms went 62-34-10, 3.20, .900 in 118 appearances over five seasons with the Warriors.

Two WHL goaltenders — Carl Stankowski of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Nick Sanders of the Prince Albert Raiders — missed time last season with hip woes. Sanders, who played in only four games, was dealt to the Calgary Hitmen on Jan. 8, while they acquired Stankowski on Aug. 7. Stankowski sat out the entire season after stepping in and backstopping the Thunderbirds to the WHL championship in 2016-17.

The Warriors used Willms and freshman Adam Evanoff in goal last season. Evanoff, 18, was 15-4-1, 2.65, .906, so likely moves to the top of Moose Jaw’s depth chart. From Penticton, Evanoff was a 10th-round pick in the 2015 WHL bantam draft.

Among the other goaltenders expected in Moose Jaw’s camp are Ethan Fitzgerald, 17, of Calgary, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, and Jackson Berry of Chestermere, Alta., who will turn 16 on Dec. 6. He was a sixth-round pick in 2017. Fitzgerald and Berry both have signed with the Warriors.



The Regina Pats have acquired G Carter Woodside, 17, from the Kootenay Ice for a Patsconditional eighth-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. Woodside, from Asquith, Sask., was picked by the Ice in the sixth round of the 2016 bantam draft. . . . The trade’s condition has to do with the number of games Woodside plays for the Pats in 2018-19. . . . He played last season with the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos, going 15-5-0, 2.53, .900 in the regular season. . . . Also on the Pats’ goaltending depth chart are sophomore Max Paddock, 18, and WHL veteran Kyle Dumba, 20.


The Seattle Thunderbirds have signed F Kai Uchacz, their first-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft, to a WHL contract. From De Winton, Alta., he had 25 goals and 17 assists in 33 games with the bantam AAA Okotoks Oilers last season. . . . As the lists below show, WHL teams now have signed 19 of the 22 first-round draft picks.

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The WHL teams that have signed 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

1 Edmonton — F Dylan Guenther.

2. Kootenay — D Carson Lambos.

3. Prince Albert — D Nolan Allan.

4. Calgary — F Sean Tschigerl.

5. Kamloops — F Logan Stankoven.

6. Saskatoon — F Colton Dach.

7. Red Deer — F Jayden Grubbe.

8. Lethbridge — F Zack Stringer.

10. Seattle — F Kai Uchacz.

11. Medicine Hat — F Cole Sillinger.

12. Vancouver — F Zack Ostapchuk.

13. Victoria — D Nolan Bentham.

14. Tri-City — D Marc Lajoie.

15. Brandon — F Jake Chiasson.

16. Red Deer — D Kyle Masters.

17. Spokane — D Graham Sward.

19. Portland — F Gabe Klassen.

20. Edmonton — D Keegan Slaney.

22. Moose Jaw — F Eric Alarie.

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The WHL teams that have yet to sign their 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

9. Prince George — F Craig Armstrong.

18. Kelowna — F Trevor Wong (committed to U of Denver, 2021-22).

21. Prince George — G Tyler Brennan.


When it comes to the Medicine Hat Tigers’ training camp and exhibition schedule, there Tigers Logo Officialis going to be an interesting battle for spots on the depth chart. Barring the unexpected, veteran Jordan Hollett, 19, will be the starter. . . . Mads Sogaard, a Dane who will turn 18 on Dec. 13, will be in the battle to backup Hollett. Sogaard, 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, played last season with the NAHL’s Austin Bruins, so culture shock shouldn’t be much of an issue. In 22 games, he was 2.64, .909. . . . Garin Bjorklund, at 16-year-old from Calgary, also will be in camp. He was a first-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. . . . Also in the picture is Kaeden Lane, who turns 17 on Oct. 10. From Burnaby, he’s a bit smaller than Sogaard, at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. . . . Matt Pouncy of chatnewstoday.ca has more right here.



D Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the SpokaneChiefsNew Jersey Devils, who selected him with the 17th overall pick in the NHL’s 2018 draft. . . . Smith, from Lloydminster, Alta., was the first WHL player taken in that draft. The Chiefs selected him first overall in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. Last season, he put up 14 goals and 59 assists in 73 games. . . . For 2017-18, Smith was named the WHL’s scholastic player of the year, earning the Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Trophy, and to the Western Conference’s first all-star team.


Nathan Hollinger has joined the Calgary Hitmen as their athletic therapist. He spent last season working as the athletic therapist/strength and conditioning coach with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton. He also has worked with the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers (athletic therapist/equipment manager, 2015-17) and Regina Pats (student athletic therapist, 2014-15). . . . Hollinger takes over from Kyle Vouriot, who is moving on to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose as assistant athletic therapist and assistant strength and conditioning trainer.



If you would like to support my wife, Dorothy, as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sept. 23, you are able to do so right here.


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