WHL teams getting clearance to return . . . Three games on tap tonight . . . Giants’ owner admits to seven-figure loss last season

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This guy, apparently having gotten over Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, was looking for salt on Shuswap Road near Kamloops on Tuesday afternoon.


The WHL, which postponed 22 of 23 games it had scheduled for last weekend, had three games on its schedule for last night (Tuesday). However, they also were postponed.

But now, with teams starting to return to the ice after being put on pause by WHLCOVID-19 protocols, there are three games scheduled to be played tonight (Wednesday), with the Swift Current Broncos to visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the Brandon Wheat Kings at the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Tri-City Americans in Everett for a game with the Silvertips. Two other games — Kelowna Rockets at Prince George Cougars, Spokane Chiefs at Victoria Royals — were postponed.

On Monday, the Edmonton Oil Kings, Everett, Medicine Hat, Prince Albert Raiders, Red Deer Rebels, Saskatoon Blades, Spokane and Winnipeg Ice all were cleared to resume team activities. Earlier, Lethbridge, the Moose Jaw Warriors, Portland Winterhawks, Regina Pats, Swift Current and Tri-City also were cleared.

The WHL has begun rescheduling the games that have been postponed, so check your favourite team’s website for that information.

With the Manitoba government continuing to restrict attendance in some facilities, including arenas in Brandon and Winnipeg, two doubleheaders, both involving Regina as the visiting team, have been postponed. The Pats were to have played at Winnipeg, Jan. 15 and 16, and Brandon, Jan. 21 and 22. Those games will be rescheduled.


In a pre-Christmas appearance on Donnie and Dhali — The Team, Ron Toigo, Vancouverthe majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, said his WHL team’s losses reached seven figures for 2020-21.

The show, featuring Don Taylor and Rick Dhaliwal as hosts, is on Victoria TV station CHEK. Toigo was a guest on Dec. 22, five days before COVID-19 became a real issue with this WHL season.

Asked about the economics involved in operating a team in these trying times, Toigo replied:

“There is no economics to it. Last year, we lost north of a million dollars. We’re probably going to be maybe not that bad this year but we’re certainly going to be in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands. Just our team . . . when you spread it across the league it is significant and material.”

Based on attendance figures compiled by the WHL, the Giants, who play out of the 5,276-seat Langley Events Centre, have an average attendance this season of 2,937 after 15 home games. At present, their crowds are restricted to 50 per cent of capacity by provincial government restrictions.

The Giants played 11 home games last season when fans weren’t allowed.

In 2019-20, the Giants got in 30 home games, averaging 3,920 fans, before the season was halted by the pandemic.

In 2018-19, the last season prior to the pandemic, their 34-game average was 3,826.

The league-wide average in 2018-19, for 748 games, was 4,361. That number was 4,154 for 694 games in 2019-20. This season, after 348 games, the number is 3,051. However, 13 of the 22 teams are averaging fewer than 3,002 fans per game.

“Our goal all along,” Toigo continued, “is to make sure the players can play to get through this cycle of their development and by all accounts I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it.

“But there is no economics . . . to this sports business or probably any level of sports business while this is going on. . . . Sports business is not a good business to be in these days.”

As for the pandemic and all that comes with it, Toigo said: “It is what it is. We’re certainly a lot better off than we were a year ago with all the vaccines. . . . but we still have a long way to go.

“A lot of this we’re doing is because of all the unvaccinated issues we’ve got. If everybody was vaccinated I think we’d be a lot further ahead than we are now.”

At present, the Giants are on hold because of COVID-19 protocols. They hope to be cleared in time to face the visiting Prince George Cougars on Friday in a game that is scheduled to be televised by TSN.


Warranty


As of Tuesday, the KHL had 97 players and 29 staff members out after having tested positive for COVID-19. All told, 14 games involving Avtomobilist, Salavat Ulaev, CSKA, Dinamo Riga and Torpedo have been postponed. All this came out of an emergency meeting involving the KHL and team executives that was held on Tuesday. . . . Later in the day, it was revealed that Moscow Spartak had gone into quarantine after 10 positive tests, while Metallurg Magnitogorsk had nine players and two staffers test positive. . . . Following the meeting, the KHL confirmed its desire to complete the regular season by playing all games. That may result in playing games during the approaching Olympic break or extending the season, thus delaying the start of playoffs. A final decision is to be made after Jan. 23, which is when the KHL’s Olympic break is to begin.


Tyler Moore is the new general manager of the junior B Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, with Nick Deschenes signing on as head coach. They take over from Ron Sleeman and Gerald Bouchard, who no longer are with the organization. In December, Sleeman was suspended by the KIJHL for 45 days and Bouchard for eight games after the Eagles were sanctioned for violations of the the league’s COVID-19 policy. . . . Deschenes began this season as the GM and head coach of the KIJHL’s Summerland Steam, but left five games into the season in one of those mutual partings. . . . Moore had been the director of scouting with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors.


Plan


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Drummer

Some B.C. teams cleared for 100 per cent capacity . . . Not Blazers, Cougars, Rockets . . . Want a drink at Kraken game? Bring money. Lots of money


B.C.’s NDP government and the Provincial Health Office have been guilty of mixed messaging and poor communications on more than one occasion over the last 18 or 19 months or however long we have been in this pandemic-induced mess.

That appears to have been the case again on Tuesday.

Of course, no one should have been surprised when it was announced that (some) facilities, including the home of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, would be allowed to go to 100 per cent capacity — up from 50 — on Oct. 25. Uhh, the Canucks’ home-opener is scheduled for Oct. 26. I know. I know. Surely, a coincidence. Right?

But there are a lot of junior hockey teams in B.C., and many of them believed that they were included in the change to 100 per cent capacity. Except it turns out they weren’t.

While the Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals are among the 100 Club, the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Prince George Cougars aren’t. Neither are the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, Cranbrook Bucks, Merritt Centennials, Penticton Vees, Prince George Spruce Kings, Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Trail Smoke Eaters, Vernon Vipers and West Kelowna Warriors. Oh, and the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks aren’t in the 100 Club either. At least, not yet.

It took Richard Zussman of Global BC to unmuddy the waters.


If you missed it over the weekend, the family of the late Jimmy Hayes, a former nhl2NHLer, revealed that he had fentanyl and cocaine in his system when he died in August. That came after he had ended up addicted to painkillers while rehabbing an injury. . . . Rick Westhead of TSN spoke with Len Boogaard, whose son Derek, a former NHL/WHL player, died of an accidental overdose in May 2011. . . . “How many players have to die before the NHL acknowledges that there’s a problem?” Len Boogaard said. “Ten years ago, with Derek, I maintained that it was a learning experience for everybody, so that Derek didn’t die in vain. Well, we continue to just go through the same thing. After me it was Steve Montador’s dad. And now it’s Jimmy’s dad saying he wants to bring this to everyone’s attention, so it doesn’t happen to everyone else. I guess it’s going to take more players dying, maybe three or four back-to-back again, or maybe more, for the NHL to do something. Maybe it has to happen again, God forbid. I know it sounds so callous . . .” . . . Westhead’s complete story is right here. . . . And if you haven’t read the book Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard, written by John Branch of The New York Times, it’s well worth your time.


You should know that there aren’t any “overage” players in the WHL.

Merriam-Webster defines “overage” as being “too old to be useful.”

There was a time, prior to April 2, 1985, when the WHL and its teams referred to 20-year-old players as “overagers.” However, that came to an end at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on that sunny April day in 1985.

At that same meeting, governors voted to allow each team to dress three 20-year-olds, up from two, a rule that remains in existence today.

“I’m pleased about the move to three 20-year-olds,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said at the time. “We also decided to eliminate the word ‘overage.’ From now on, those players will be referred to as 20-year-olds.”

——

There were 20-year-olds in action on Tuesday night as the WHL featured two games. Some highlights . . .

In Medicine Hat, F Lukas Svejkovsky, a 20-year-old, scored his league-leading seventh goal of the season at 2:17 of OT to give the Tigers a 5-4 victory over the Swift Current Broncos. . . . F Teague Patton (1) of the Tigers (3-3-1) had tied the game at 8:24 of the third period. . . . Svejkovsky also had three assists, with D Bogdans Hodass also finishing with a goal, his second, and three assists. . . . D Mathew Ward (4) had a goal and two assists for the visitors. . . . The Broncos (2-5-1) had opened the season with a home-and-home sweep of the Tigers. Swift Current now has lost six straight (0-4-2). . . .

In Kent, Wash., the Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s first three goals and went on to a 5-3 victory over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . F Mekai Sanders (2) scored once and added an assist for Seattle (3-2-1) which had lost it previous three games (0-2-1). . . . Seattle lost F Matthew Rempe with a charging major and game misconduct at 7:06 of the third period. . . . The Chiefs (2-4-1) got to within a goal, at 4-3, when F Blake Swetlikoff (1) scored on a PP at 9:18 but they weren’t able to equalize.


Medical


The Foo Fighters were on stage at Climate Pledge in Arena, the home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, on Tuesday night. . . . If you’re thinking of catching an NHL game there once the U.S. opens up its border, well, you may want to visit your banker first. . . .


If you enjoy reading hockey-related notebooks, I’ve got one for you. Ken Campbell, who spent so many years writing for The Hockey News, now is on his own and writes at Hockey Unfiltered. . . . His weekly notebook is right here, and there is an especially interesting piece on a whole lot of scouts testing positive after attending a recent event.


JUST NOTES: F Nathan MacKinnon was back in the Colorado Avalanche’s lineup on Tuesday night, his stint with COVID-19 over after a couple of negative tests. He had been asymptomatic as he missed his team’s first two games of the NHL’s regular season. MacKinnon is fully vaccinated so, under the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, he won’t lose any pay. . . . D Jack Johnson also is back with Colorado after missing one game following a positive test. He since has had two negatives. . . . The Winnipeg Jets were without F Blake Wheeler, their captain, on Tuesday night when they visited the Minnesota Wild. He has tested positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms; the remainder of the team also tested negative on Tuesday morning. Wheeler will be in isolation for at least 10 days, so won’t play in the Jets’ home-opener on Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.



So . . . you’re the general manager of a hockey team and you’re thinking that you had a bad day or a bad weekend. Well, let’s take a look at Derek Stuart, the GM/head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, and what he and his squad went through last weekend. . . . Leading up to a pair of weekend games, the Dynamiters had two of their top four defencemen leave the team, one of them retiring to go into firefighting at the age of 20. . . . Then, before the weekend games arrived, three players were suspended, two of them for “participating in a multiple-fight altercation.” That mean Stuart also was suspended for a game. . . . Then, on the first shift of Saturday’s game, the Dynamiters lost their captain to a broken collarbone. Later, another forward also left with an injury. . . . When he woke up on Monday and after he had his first cuppa, he told Paul Rodgers of the Kimberley Bulletin: “I’m doing better today than I was Saturday night.” . . . There’s got to be a good country song in there somewhere. Right? . . . Rodgers’s story is right here.


The junior B Summerland Steam of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and general manager/head coach Nick Deschenes “have mutually agreed to part ways, effective immediately,” according to a three-sentence news release from the team. . . . The really interesting part of this is that the Steam is 4-1-0 to start the season. . . . Gus Cave, the associate coach, now is the interim GM/head coach. . . . Deschenes, 42, had been with the Steam since April 2020.


Oil


So . . . Washington State University’s head football coach, Nick Rolovich, who had US$10 million left on his contract, got punted from his job on Monday because he wouldn’t get vaccinated. WSU is a state school and the state mandated that all employees get vaccinated. Oh, and four assistant coaches wouldn’t comply either, and, yes, they’re gone, too. As freelancer Henry Schulman, once of the San Francisco Chronicle, tweeted: “Don’t let the door hit your anti-science Palouse cabooses on your way out.”


Here’s Kendra Woodland, the pride of Kamloops, getting things done . . .


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Bears

No large gatherings in Alberta through August . . . Calgary and Edmonton lose major events . . . WHL planning to open on schedule

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, has said that restrictions on large gatherings in that province will run through the end of August.

Since Thursday, a number of events scheduled for Edmonton, including K-Days, and the city’s folk and jazz festivals, have been cancelled.

On Thursday, the Calgary Stampede and that city’s folk music festival were cancelled. On Friday, the City of Calgary extended its ban on large public gatherings and events through Aug. 31.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come, and the relatively low case numbers we’re seeing in many parts of the province are the result of our collective efforts and sacrifices,” Hinshaw said in her daily briefing. “COVID-19 is still with us, and it spreads rapidly through social interactions.

“We have had several instances in the province of social gatherings where one person passed the virus on to many others at a single event before the individual knew they had COVID.”

She mentioned a bonspiel in Edmonton that included 73 attendees, 40 of whom later tested positive for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately,” she added, “this virus does not respect our feelings. I am keenly aware of the depth to which these measures are affecting everyone. I do not take them lightly. I ask you to do the same.”

Meanwhile, according to a tweet from Rod Pedersen, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, told him that the league plans “to open the 2020-21 season on schedule and the June 27 import draft is unchanged.”

That, of course, is what Robison would be expected to say.

The WHL hasn’t yet released its 2020-21 regular-season schedules, but chances are it would begin the weekend of Sept. 25, about five weeks after teams will want to open training camps.

However, you would hope that the WHL has Plan B, Plan C, Plan D and maybe a few others . . . you know, just in case.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, with 19 teams in B.C. and one — the Spokane Braves — in Washington, normally would open its regular season in mid-September. Steve Hogg, the general manager of the Summerland Steam, has told John Arendt of Black Press that “we have full plans on having a league,” but that it might not get rolling until mid-October.

You also are free to wonder if the annual CHL import draft really will be held on June 27. It normally is held a day or two after the NHL draft, which, this year, is scheduled for June 26 and 27 in Montreal.

But . . . hold on . . . there are rumblings that the NHL may postpone its draft because there will be a whole lot to sort out if it is to be held prior to the end of the regular season. And you will recall that the NHL’s regular season remains in a holding pattern.



The Bellingham Bells of baseball’s West Coast League have cancelled their 2020 season, but the league says its remaining 11 teams are preparing to open on June 5. . . . The league includes two Canadian teams — the Kelowna Falcons and Victoria HarbourCats. . . . The Bells’ hand was forced when the city shut down all activities in its facilities through Aug. 31. . . .

The 10-team Cape Cod Baseball League, perhaps the top summer league for college players, has cancelled its 2020 season. The league has been around since 1885 and has played every season since 1945. . . . Its season was to have opened on June 13, with playoffs starting on Aug. 4. . . .

The 12-team Western Canadian Baseball League is expected to cancel its 2020 season after officials meet on Wednesday. The 12-team league features teams in Melville, Moose Jaw, Regina, Swift Current, Weyburn and Yorkton, all in Saskatchewan, and the Alberta communities of Brooks, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Okotoks. . . .

Organizers have cancelled the World Triathlon event that was scheduled to be held in Edmonton. The Grand Final of the ITU World Triathlon group was set for Aug. 17-23. . . . Reid Wilkins of Global News has more right here, including news that the Prairie Football Conference, which is scheduled to begin play in mid-August, is looking at a delayed start.



A nondescript wooden cudgel discovered in a Vermont home in 1980 — and just sitting in an umbrella stand ever since — turned out to be a circa-1850s hockey stick now up for auction online. It’s been appraised at $3.5 million,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Proving once again that it pays to forecheck.”


Pizza


Greg Cote, in the Miami Herald: “The PGA Tour is planning a mid-June return with no fans, assuring the look and ambiance of it will have all the excitement of a Tuesday practice round. Meantime, GolfTV reported exclusively that the gum Tiger Woods chews on a golf course is orange-flavored Trident. Run to the store and start hoarding!”



Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “Khrushchev, too, looks like the kind of man his physicians must continually try to diet, and historians will someday correlate these sporadic deprivations, to which he submits ‘for his own good,’ with his public tantrums. If there is to be a world cataclysm, it will probably be set off by skim milk, Melba toast, and mineral oil on the salad.”


Wasps


Nick Deschenes has signed on as the head coach and director of player personnel with the junior B Summerland Steam of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . He has spent the past four seasons working with minor hockey programs and academies near his home in West Kelowna. . . . Prior to that he spent one season (2012-13) as the GM/head coach of the KIJHL’s Grand Forks Border Bruins and the next two as the GM/head coach of the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. . . . Deschenes takes over the Steam from Ken Karpuk, who departed after one season. . . . Tim Hogg, the play-by-play voice of the Steam has more right here.


Barry Petrachenko spent 20 years running BC Hockey. On Monday, the province’s hockey CEO lost his job. . . . If you’re wondering what happened, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week has the story right here.


StayAway

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