WHL asks players to opt out of lawsuit. . . . Yes, Matvichuk wants to keep coaching. . . . Blades sign three 2019 draft picks

MacBeth

D Nick Ross (Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, 2004-09) has signed a one-year contract with Jegesmedvék Miskolc (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). This season, with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had nine goals and 31 assists in 52 games. He was second on the team in assists. . . .

F Dalibor Bortňák (Kamloops, 2008-11) has signed a one-year contract with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, with Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 10 goals and 21 assists in 54 games. . . .

F Parker Bowles (Tri-City, 2011-16) has signed a one-year contract with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Lillehammer (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he had 20 goals and 25 assists in 48 games. . . .

F Gilbert Brulé (Vancouver, 2002-06) has signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). This season, with Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia, KHL), he had seven goals and 15 assists in 30 games. . . .

D Clint Filbrandt (Tri-City, Kootenay, 2012-14) has signed a one-year contract with DEAC Debrecen (Hungary, Erste Liga). This season, with U of Lethbridge (USports, Canada West), he had two goals and five assists in 25 games. . . .

F Calder Brooks (Calgary, Prince Albert, Spokane, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with Lyon (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with St. Mary’s U (USports, Atlantic University Sport), he had six goals and 15 assists in 29 games. He also had three goals and one assist in three games with the Wichita Thunder (ECHL). . . .

F Danis Zaripov (Swift Current, 1998-99) has signed a one-year contract extension with Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL). This season, he had nine goals and 23 assists in 48 games. He was third on his team in points. . . .

F Milan Jurík (Prince Albert, 2006-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Mulhouse (France, Ligue Magnus). An alternate captain, he had six goals and 17 assists in 42 games this season. . . .

F Brendan Shinnimin (Tri-City, 2007-12) has signed a two-year contract extension with Växjö Lakers (Sweden, SHL). This season, he had 17 goals and 16 assists in 47 games. He tied for the team lead in goals and points. . . .

F Marek Kalus (Spokane, Brandon, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. He led the team in goals and points.


ThisThat

Rick Westhead, TSN’s senior correspondent, reported Tuesday that the WHL “is asking current and former players to opt out of a class-action minimum-wage lawsuit against the league, suggesting that the future of amateur sports in Canada is at risk. The WHL shared its message in an e-bulletin that was sent Tuesday by email to a distribution list that includes current and former players. The group email was obtained by TSN.” . . . Westhead’s complete story is right here.


It began with a report in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that had Richard Matvichuk, the former head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, as a candidate for the head-coaching position with the ECHL’s Komets.

Matvichuk wasn’t the favourite, reported Justin A. Cohn, but he was believed to be in the chase.

Then came a rumour that, no, Matvichuk didn’t want to coach, and that he would stay in Prince George and get involved with minor hockey.

Well, it turns out that Matvichuk, a 46-year-old native of Edmonton, isn’t through with coaching. At least, he hopes he isn’t.

As he told Taking Note: “Yes, I want to coach.”

And why shouldn’t he?

A defenceman, Matvichuk played three seasons (1989-92) with the Saskatoon Blades before going on to a professional career that included 796 regular-season NHL games and another 123 in the playoffs. His name is on the Stanley Cup (Dallas Stars, 1998-99).

His coaching career includes two seasons as assistant GM/assistant coach with the Texas-based Allen Americans, who then were in the CHL. He then spent two seasons (2014-16) as director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. He was the ECHL’s coach of the year in the second of those seasons.

Matvichuk brought that track record to the Cougars, and he guided them to first place in the B.C. Division with a franchise-record 45 victories in his first season. That marked the first time the franchise had won a WHL banner.

But the Cougars went all-in that season, then were upset in six games by the Portland Winterhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The Cougars spent the past two seasons trying to get back on track, as often happens to teams that try to seize the moment by going all-in.

General manager Mark Lamb, who was nearing the end of his first season with the Cougars, fired Matvichuk with 16 games remaining this season. Matvichuk’s three-year contract was to have expired following the season.

At the time, the Cougars were 16-30-6 and on an 11-game losing skid. Lamb stepped in as head coach and the slump reached a franchise-record 17 games before it finally ended. The Cougars went 3-11-2 under Lamb to finish at 19-41-8 and out of the playoffs.

During the season, the Cougars’ ownership, having surveyed the damage, reached the conclusion that it would never again go all-in, that the price to be paid just isn’t worth it because, as they found out, there aren’t any guarantees.

It also has to be pointed out that the Cougars’ 2018-19 season, at least in terms of grabbing a playoff spot, was done in by perhaps the worst stretch of scheduling in WHL history.

The Cougars were 11-14-3 in December when they headed into an absolutely bizarre 11-game road trip that was broken up by the Christmas break and included three separate treks into the U.S. Division.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote in February:
“If you’re wondering why things went south in Prince George this season, it may have had something to do with the schedule. As bad as 16-30-6 may sound now, the Cougars were 11-14-3 as they began an insane 11-game road trip that was interrupted by the Christmas break and included three separate jaunts into the U.S. Division. They went 3-8-0 on that trip, came home and beat Kelowna twice, and are 0-8-3 since those victories.

“Team management has since gone on the record as saying it will never again accept such goofy scheduling.”

The Cougars split with the visiting Victoria Royals on Dec. 1 and 2, then didn’t play at home again until Jan. 11 and 12 when they swept Kelowna.

It’s no wonder that Matvichuk doesn’t feel that he is done with coaching.


The WHL will have three of its coaches working benches during the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in November. . . . Michael Dyck, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants, has been named by Hockey Canada as head coach of Team Canada White. . . . Ryan Marsh, the associate coach with the Saskatoon Blades, will be an assistant coach alongside Dyck. . . . Steve O’Rourke, an assistant coach with the Prince George Cougars, is to be an assistant coach on Team Canada Red. . . . The tournament is to be held in Medicine Hat and Swift Current, Nov. 2-9.


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The Saskatoon Blades have signed three 2019 bantam draft selections to WHL contracts. . . . F Brandon Lisowsky, from Coquitlam, B.C., was taken in the first round, ninth overall. He is the eighth of the 22 first-round selections to sign a WHL contract. This season, Lisowsky had 61 goals and 48 assists in 53 games with the Burnaby Winter Club’s bantam prep team. . . . F Hayden Smith, from Kamloops, was selected in the second round. He had 24 goals and 23 assists in 30 games with the Yale Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . G Ethan Chadwick, from Saskatoon, was a third-round pick. He had a 2.83 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 22 games with the bantam AA Saskatoon Stallions.

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The Regina Pats have signed D Layton Feist to a WHL contract. Feist, from Coldstream, B.C., was selected in the first round, 17th overall, of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. This season, he had eight goals and 14 assists in 20 games with the OMAHA (Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association) North Zone Kings. . . . His older brother, Tyson, is a defenceman with the Pats.

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The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed F Brayden Boehm to a WHL contract.  He was a second-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . From Nanaimo, he had 16 goals and 24 in 30 games with the Delta Hockey Academy’s prep green team this season.

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The Swift Current Broncos have signed F Caleb Wyrostok to a WHL contract. From Medicine Hat, he was a ninth-round selection by the Broncos in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . Wyrostok, 16, played this season for the Northern Alberta X-Treme elite 15 team, putting up 20 goals and 15 assists in 30 games.


The MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders have signed Geoff Grimwood as their new general manager and head coach. Grimwood, from Victoria, spent 2018-19 as the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. Prior to that, he was the GM and head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for three seasons.


Bob Beatty, a veteran junior A coach, has signed on with the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons as an associate coach. For the past two seasons, Beatty has been the head coach of the bantam prep team at the Shawnigan Lake, B.C., School. In Fort McMurray, Beatty will be working alongside Dave Dupas, who is preparing for his first season as general manager and head coach.


Pierre-Paul Lamoureux is the new head coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force. A native of Grand Forks, N.D., he played three seasons (2004-07) with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and worked as their associate coach in 2016-17. Lamoureux was the Force’s associate head coach for the past two seasons. . . . Lamoureux, 31, will be the youngest head coach in the league. He takes over from Cary Eades, who stays on as general manager and president of hockey operations.


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Love has arrived in Saskatoon . . . Blazers’ co-owner leaves Blues . . . Ex-Winter Hawks forward dies at 52 . . . Americans say they’re staying put

MacBeth

F Emil Oksanen (Regina, 2017-18) signed a two-year contract with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). This season, as a 19-year-old, he had 16 goals and 32 assists in 58 games with Regina. . . . Oksanen played 18 games as a 16-year-old with the Espoo Blues U20 (Finland, A-Junior Liiga) for SaiPa head coach Tero Lehterä. Oksanen’s older brother attends university in Lappeenranta. . . .

D Nick Ross (Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, 2004-09) signed a one-year contract with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had nine goals and 30 assists in 56 games. He led his team in assists and was fourth in the league. . . . Ross played three seasons with Innsbruck before moving to Zvolen. . . .

D Mario Grman (Red Deer, Kootenay, 2014-16) signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). This season, with Piráti Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had one goal and four assists in 44 games. . . .

D Daine Todd (Medicine Hat, 2003-08) signed a one-year contract with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL). This season, with Örebro (Sweden, SHL), he had one goal and eight assists in 40 games. . . .

F Dane Byers (Prince Albert, 2001-06) signed a one-year contract extension with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). An alternate captain, the had 24 goals and 46 assists in 55 games.


Scattershooting

As expected, the Saskatoon Blades introduced Mitch Love as their new head on Wednesday afternoon. A rugged defenceman in his playing days, Love has spent the past seven seasons on the Everett Silvertips’ coaching staff. . . . Tyler Wawryk, the Blades’ manager of communications, has more on Love right here.

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If you were wondering, Mitch Love, the Saskatoon Blades’ new head coach, signed a four-Saskatoonyear contract, with the club holding an option on a fifth season. . . . Ryan Keller, an assistant coach through two seasons, remains on staff, while the Blades are expected to add an assistant to replace Bryce Thoma, who was fired, along with head coach Dean Brockman, at season’s end. . . . Long-time assistant Jerome Engele also remains on the coaching staff. We can only hope he is gearing up for another season of those tweets in which he rates the post-game meals when on the road.


With Mitch Love off the market, you have to wonder when a WHL team will reach into the Portland Winterhawks’ front office and sign Kyle Gustafson as their head coach. He has been on the Portland coaching staff for 14 seasons now, the last three as associate coach. . . . You have to think the Kamloops Blazers could do a whole lot worse than to sign Matt Bardsley, Portland’s assistant general manager, as general manager and Gustafson as head coach.


The other day, all in good fun, I mused in this space that perhaps the Kamloops Blazers Kamloops1might want to bring back Bob Brown as general manager and Ken Hitchcock as head coach. . . . After all, Brown’s scouting contract with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers is soon to expire, while Hitchcock has moved into an advisory role with the Dallas Stars. . . . Well, it seems that a reader of this blog ran into Hitchcock on a golf course in Summerland, B.C., that afternoon. “I mentioned to him that I just read a rumour that he might return to Kamloops as coach,” the reader tells Taking Note in an email. “He laughed and said the only thing he would be returning for was to play golf at Rivershore . . . and he laughed some more.” . . . Great to hear that Hitch is in such good humour.


So . . . Kim Kardashian met with President Trump in the White House on Wednesday to discuss prison reform. OK, America, I can hardly wait to get out of bed today to find out how you top that one.


Darryl Sydor, who owns a chunk of the Kamloops Blazers, has left the St. Louis Blues after one season as an assistant coach, the NHL team announced on Wednesday. According to a news release, Sydor “has stepped down in order to spend more time with his family.” . . . Sydor, who retired as a player after the 2009-10 season, has been in the coaching game for the past eight seasons, five of them with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. . . . The Blues also announced that they have added Mike Van Ryn as an assistant coach. A former NHL defenceman, he spent this season as head coach of the Tucson Roadrunners, the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.


The Tri-City Americans issued a news release on Wednesday, stating that they “are tri-citycommitted to the future of hockey in the Tri-Cities, as we work to improve the facility and fan experience for the 2018-19 season.” . . . According to the Americans, the WHL, Toyota Center and the City of Kennewick “have devised a three-year plan to address the WHL’s concerns” with the state of the facility that has been the Americans’ home arena for 30 years. . . . The news release, which is right here, doesn’t include any details as to what improvements are in the works.


Ray Podloski, who played for the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, died on Monday, a few Portlanddays after suffering a heart attack. He was 52. . . . An Edmonton native, Podloski played three seasons (1983-86) with the Winter Hawks. . . . He spent 1982-83 with the AJHL’s Red Deer Rustlers, but got into two regular-season games with Portland. He also played in one game in the Memorial Cup, as the Winter Hawks won the championship. . . . H also played for Portland in the 1986 Memorial Cup, putting up two goals and five assists in four games. . . . After three seasons of pro hockey in North America, he went on to spend 15 seasons playing in Europe, retiring after the 2004-05 season. . . . Earlier, Podloski obtained his Austrian citizenship and played for that country in the 1999 IIHF World Championship. . . . He owned and operated Podloski Hockey Training in Edmonton where one of his clients was F Sam Steel, the captain of the WHL’s Regina Pats. Podloski also was the head coach with the St. Edmund Hockey Academy in Edmonton.


The Vegas Golden Knights are three victories away from winning the Stanley Cup in their first NHL season. However, assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon knows he can’t afford to think about that. Still, he knows how much his late brother, Brad, would be proud of him for the role he has played in the Golden Knight’s inaugural season. . . . Arash Markazi of ESPN has more on the McCrimmon brothers right here.


The Prince George Cougars are preparing for their 25th season in the northern B.C. city. PGCougars25Yes, it really has been 25 years since they made the move from Victoria. . . . With that in mind, they have unveiled their 25th anniversary logo. . . . According to a news release, the logo “features the Cougars’ logo over the number 25, with a banner across the front. The years 1994 and 2019 inside the banner reflect the years the organization has been operating in Prince George.” . . . You can bet the Cougars’ home schedule will be loaded with celebratory promotions.


The SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings have signed Jeff Schaeffer as assistant general manager and assistant coach. Schaeffer, who is from Weyburn, has spent the past four seasons scouting for the Red Wings. . . . The Red Wings also announced that assistant coach Brock Appleyard has left the team “to pursue other opportunities.”


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