Oil Barons cite safety concerns in ending season . . . Blades to retire No. 44 . . . WHL’s Regina hub season ends


The Fort McMurray Oil Barons announced on Wednesday that they are opting ajhlout of the remainder of the AJHL season. . . . Here’s David Fitzgerald, the team president, from a news release: “The Oil Barons organization has decided to conclude the 2020-21 season early out of concern for the safety of our players, billet families, staff and all involved with our league amid the local state of emergency in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. This was a difficult choice, but one we felt was necessary to maintain the health and safety of our organization and community. With case numbers in our community among the highest per capita in Alberta, we feel strongly that this is the best decision — even though it goes against our competitive nature.” . . . Fort McMurray Today reported Wednesday: “At the time of the announcement, the RMWB had 1499.8 cases per 100,000 people, the highest in Alberta and Canada. The region has 1,235 cases in Fort McMurray and 17 in rural areas, more than the rest of rural Alberta. These numbers do not include the commuter workforce. The region also had outbreaks at 19 workplaces and 14 schools.” . . . The Oil Barons went 12-1-3 in this shortened season.


Canada’s Olympic swim trials were to have been held from May 24-28, but now have been moved to June 19-23. They are scheduled for the Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto. However, the COVID-19 situation in Toronto and area is not good at the moment. . . . Ahmed El-Awadi, Swim Canada’s CEO, said in a statement: “Swimming Canada is also pursuing options for holding the trials elsewhere in North America should running the event in Toronto not be viable based on factors at the time. “The dates would remain the same in an alternate location.” . . . At the same time, the Paralympic part of the trials has been cancelled because the new dates conflict with a meet in Berlin. “We will create alternative competitive opportunities,” El-Awadi said.


The Canadian Grand Prix has been nixed for 2021, with the Turkish Grand Prix replacing it on the Formula 1 calendar, June 11-13. . . . From a Formula 1 news release: “Due to the ongoing international travel restrictions in place in Canada it became impossible for Formula 1 to enter the country without a mandatory 14-day quarantine, leading to the change.” . . . The tour returned to Istanbul last year, in November, for the first time in nine years.


Ham


By now, you’re wondering who will be the head coach of the Seattle Kraken when the expansion team begins play next season. . . . Well, Bodog, an online sportsbook, has posted some odds:

Gerard Gallant +175

Bruce Boudreau +250

Claude Julien +450

Todd Nelson +900

Rikard Gronborg +1100

Rod Brind’Amour +1200

John Stevens +1200

Mike Babcock +1200

Mike Vellucci +1400

Dan Bylsma +2000

Mike Yeo +2000

I might be inclined to go with Gallant, who will be the head coach of the Canadian team at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in Latvia next month, but I also noticed one omission. Travis Green, whose contract as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks is expiring, isn’t on the list. I’m thinking he should be, maybe even at +200.


The seven teams in the Regina hub — five from Saskatchewan, two from WHL2Manitoba — are all finished with the WHL’s 2020-21 development season, and each team got in 24 games. That was the plan when it started and it worked because there wasn’t even one positive test in the more than two months that teams were holed up in dorms at the U of Regina and Luther College. . . . Some numbers about the Regina hub from the WHL: 48 days, 84 games, 1,930 tests for COVID-19, 0 positive tests.

There also were three other games last night. . . .

F Chase Wouters, playing his 280th regular-season game with Saskatoon, Bladesscored the game-winner as the Blades beat the Brandon Wheat Kings, 5-2, to close out their season in the Regina hub. . . . After the game, Colin Priestner, the Blades’ president and general manager, revealed that the team will be retiring No. 44 in honour of the team’s first three-season captain. . . . Brandon (18-4-2), which had a seven-game winning streak snapped, finished atop the Regina hub standings. . . . Saskatoon (16-5-3) won its last two and finished third. . . . D Wyatt McLeod (3) gave Saskatoon a 1-0 lead at 13:59 of the first period, and F Brandon Lisowsky (8) made it 2-0 just 51 seconds into the second. . . . The Wheat Kings tied it on a pair of PP goals from F Lynden McCallum, at 11:59 and 17:56. . . . McCallum finished with 21 goals in 22 games, including nine in his last four games. He scored seven PP goals over his last three games. In those last four games, he twice was first star and twice was third star. . . . Wouters snapped the 2-2 tie with his 10th goal, at 18:38 of the second period. . . . F Colton Dach (10) added insurance at 15:55 of the third, and F Kyle Crnkovic (11) got the empty-netter. . . . F Ridly Greig had two assists for Brandon. You may recall that he tested positive prior the Canadian junior team’s selection camp in December so missed the World Junior Championship. In Regina, he finished with 10 goals and 22 assists in 21 games. . . . The Blades got 35 saves from G Nolan Maier, who went 12-3-2, 2.34 .915. . . . Six players in this one concluded their WHL careers. For an indication of how much experience these teams lose from their lineups with these departures, here’s a note from Les Lazaruk, the long-time radio voice of the Blades: “Brandon’s trio of 20-year-old forwards Lynden McCallum, Reid Perepeluk and Marcus Sekundiak have 482 total games in the WHL. Saskatoon’s 20s — F Chase Wouters, F Caiden Daley and D Wyatt McLeod — have a combined 788 games.” . . . The Blades have retired five other sweater numbers — 7 (Brent Ashton, Gerry Pinder); 10 (Brian Skrudland); 12 (Bob Bourne); 15 (Bernie Federko); and 22 (Wendel Clark). . . .

F Ozzy Wiesblatt scored in OT to give the Prince Albert Raiders a 6-5 victory Raidersover the Swift Current Broncos in the final game in the Regina hub. . . . The Raiders finished 9-11-4, while the Broncos went 6-16-2. . . . The Broncos had forced OT with two goals in the second half of the third period. D Mathew Ward (6) scored, on a PP, at 10:53 and F Cole Nagy (7) tied it at 18:57. . . . To go back to the beginning, the Broncos opened the scoring — F Raphael Pelletier (4) — at 6:42 of the first period. . . . The Raiders took a 2-1 lead on a PP goal from F Reece Vitelli, at 13:21, and D Terrell Goldsmith (2), at 18:46. . . . F Bode Hogan (3) pulled Swift Current even at 6:48 of the second, but Prince Albert went ahead 4-2 on goals from F Tyson Laventure (5), at 17:48 of the second, and F Justin Nachbaur (9), at 0:16 of the third. . . . F Carter Stebbings (4) cut the Broncos’ deficit to one at 1:39, but Vitelli (7) got it back at 7:03. . . . Vitelli also had an assist for a three-point night. . . . The Broncos got three assists from F Michael Farren, in his final WHL game. . . . Raiders G Max Paddock had his WHL career end at 8:01 of the third period when he was hit with a match penalty for attempt to injury after using his blocker to punch F Josh Davies, who had fallen into him. Davies was given an unsportsmanlike minor. . . . G Carter Serhyenko came on in relief, stopped six of eight shots in 12:53, and got the victory. . . . Attendance on the online scoresheet was listed at 190. Obviously the official scorer was a jokester as the WHL games in Canada are being played without fans in attendance. . . .

F Adam Beckman broke a 3-3 tie with a PP goal at 17:05 of the third period to give the host Spokane Chiefs a 4-3 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . This was Tri-City’s first game since April 13 as it was forced to suspend team activities because of a couple of positive tests. . . . Spokane (5-7-3) had lost its previous two games. . . . The Americans (5-8-0) have lost three in a row. . . . Beckman, who led the WHL in goals last season, scored three times, giving him 11, and had an assist. . . . The Chiefs also got two goals and two assists from F Eli Zummack, who has seven goals. . . . F Sasha Mutala (5) gave the Americans a 1-0 lead at 4:39 of the first period, with Zummack equalizing at 16:15. . . . F Booker Daniel (3) put the Americans back in front at 1:09 of the first, but Beckman, at 3:51, and Zummack, at 10:25, gave the Chiefs a 3-2 lead. . . . F Nick Bowman (1) got the Americans back into a tie at 17:58. . . . Beckman broke the tie and then added the empty-netter. . . . G Manny Panghli, 16, made his first WHL start for the Chiefs and stopped 33 shots. He is an undrafted signee of the Chiefs. Panghli didn’t start playing goal until he was 10 years of age. He grew up in Merritt, B.C., and moved to Kamloops in 2018. He signed with the Chiefs on Feb. 16, after playing on the U17 Prep Black team at OHA in Penticton for head coach Robert Dirk, a former Regina Pats defenceman. . . . Veteran F Luke Toporowski is back with the Chiefs after playing 32 games with the Sioux Falls Stampede — he had 14 goals and 19 assists in 32 games. He didn’t play last night, but could play Saturday against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. . . .

F Ronan Seeley scored twice and added an assist to help the host Everett EverettSilvertips to a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Everett (15-3-0) has won six in a row and holds an 11-point lead over the idle Portland Winterhawks atop the U.S. Division. . . . Seattle (7-10-0) has lost five straight. . . . F Jacob Wright (8) gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 1:16 of the first period, only to have D Luke Bateman (1) scored for Everett just 32 seconds later. . . . Everett got the next two goals — from F Cole Fonstad (13), shorthanded, at 13:31 of the first, and Seeley, at 15:18 of the second. . . . F Jordan Gustafson (5) got Seattle to within a goal, on a PP, at 5:28 of the third period. . . . Seeley (4), on a PP at 14:49, and D Ty Gibson (1), into an empty net, put this one away. . . . Seeley, the 20th overall pick in the 2017 bantam draft, has four goals in 18 games. He went into this season with four goals in 115 games. . . . Everett G Dustin Wolf stopped 29 shots. He is 14-2-0, 1.69, .944. . . .

F Keaton Dowhaniuk scored once and added three assists to lead the Prince PGGeorge Cougars to a 5-1 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. . . . The game was played in Kamloops with the Cougars as the home team. . . . Prince George (6-7-2) has won two in a row. . . . Kamloops (12-3-0) had won its previous five games. . . . The Cougars took a 3-0 lead into the third period on goals from F Tyson Upper (2), D Ethan Samson (1) and Dowhaniuk (3), the latter coming shorthanded. . . . F Josh Pillar (8) scored Kamloops’ goal, on a PP, at 6:35 of the third period. . . . Cougars F Connor Bowie (6) made it 4-1 at 6:52 and F Koehn Ziemmer (4) added another PP goal, at 13:34. . . . Kamloops F Connor Zary left in the second period after what Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week described as “a dangerous hit to the head.” Zary was helped from the ice by Kamloops trainer Colin Robinson. “Clear head injury,” Hastings tweeted. . . . F Jonny Hooker was given a minor penalty on the play and Dowhaniuk scored shorthanded while he was in stir. . . . The Cougars got 37 saves from G Taylor Gauthier.

The Blazers and Cougars are scheduled to meet one more time this season — on May 12, in what is to be the final game for each team.


Desserted


F Dylan Guenther’s goal at 10:38 of the third period stood up as the winner as U18Canada beat Latvia, 4-2, in a Group A game at the IIHF U18 World Championship in Texas on Wednesday. . . . Canada is 2-0; Lativia is 0-2. . . . Guenther, from the Edmonton Oil Kings, also had an assist. F Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers also had a goal and an assist, while F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats drew two assists. . . . In Wednesday’s other game, Finland won its second straight game, beating Czech Republic, 6-5, in Group B. Samu Tuomaala’s PP goal with 19 seconds left in the third period won it. . . . On Thursday, it’s Sweden (1-1) against Switzerland (1-1) and Belarus (1-1) against Latvia in Group A, and Germany (0-2) versus Russia (0-1-1) and Czech Republic (1-1) versus Team USA (1-0-1) in Group B. . . . Canada’s next game is scheduled for Friday against Switzerland.


Avangard Omsk won its first KHL championship on Wednesday, beating CSKA Moscow, 1-0, in Game 6 of the best-of-seven final. The game’s lone goal came from F Sergey Tolchinsky in the final minute of the first period. . . . Omsk head coach Bob Hartley now has won championships in the CJHL (Hawkesbury Hawks, 1989-90, 1990-91), QMJHL (Laval Titan, 1992-93), AHL (Hershey Bears, 1996-97), NHL (Colorado Avalanche, 2000-01), Swiss NLA (ZSC Lions, 2011-12) and now the KHL.


Don’t forget that my wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on June 6. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here.

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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

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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

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Rick Hannibal is the new general manager of the junior B Oceanside Generals of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. He has been on the club’s board of directors since 2016-17. He takes over from Andrew Riddell, who left the position after getting promotion within his full-time employer. . . . Carson Grant has joined the VIJHL’s Comox Valley Glacier Kings as an assistant coach and scout. Included in his resume is a stint as a scout with the WHL’s Victoria Royals.


Gascars

Washington governor expected to ban large gatherings . . . Would impact two WHL teams . . . Junior B series opener postponed


Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., at which, according to the Everett Herald, he is expected to “announce a ban on events and social gatherings attended by more than 250 people” as the area continues to battle COVID-19.

It is believed that an initial ban would impact Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Everett, the home of the WHL’s Silvertips, is the county seat and the largest city in EverettSnohomish County. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds play out of SeattleKent, Wash., which is located in King County.

It will also affect the MSL’s Seattle Sounders, Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves and XFL’s Seattle Dragons.

The Thunderbirds have three home games remaining — on Saturday (Vancouver), Tuesday (Spokane) and March 21 (Portland).

The Silvertips have one home game remaining, on March 20 against the Victoria Royals.

Later Tuesday, the Silvertips announced the cancellation of the Silvertips Radio Show “until further notice.” It was broadcast live from Sporty’s Beef & Brew, featuring play-by-play voice Mike Benton and appearances by players. Last night’s show was available via the Internet.

On Tuesday, Inslee said the banning of large gatherings, including sporting events, is under consideration.

“I would not be shocked if we have some more news on that in the next few days,” he said. “If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming, not just what’s here today.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll in the state from COVID-19 had reached at least 23, with more than 190 confirmed cases. Inslee said he expects that number to grow rapidly.

On Monday evening, Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, had displayed a chart that features five levels of actions. Washington state already has moved through Level 2 and, Hayes said, “We are at the ready to institute the third level. Level 3 includes “involuntary isolation of those sick” and “involuntary quarantine of those who have interacted with those sick.”

Hayes added: “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant . . . But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”

Level 4 involves ordering the “cancellation of major public and large private gatherings,” which would appear to be where at least three counties now find themselves.


With less than two weeks remaining in its regular season and the playoffs scheduled to open on March 27, the WHL has announced a handful of operational changes in response to COVID-19.

It has ordered the “elimination of handshakes between teammates, opponents and whlofficials,” while also impressing upon teams that players not share water bottles or towels.

The WHL also has asked all teams to “avoid direct contact with fans, including high-fives, handshakes, and autographing of items.”

The WHL’s statement didn’t make mention of whether it has looked at other options, such as playing games in empty arenas or even postponing/cancelling games.

While the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers, for two, have said they will abide by the WHL’s request, Saskatoon radio station CKOM reported that the Blades “aren’t putting limitations on fans.”

The station reported that “Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades, told 650 CKOM the team isn’t planning on following the recommendations, and autograph sessions will continue as scheduled.”



In Everett, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced that its men’s and women’s basketball championships are moving from Everett Community College to Clackamas CC in Oregon City, Ore., and Linn-Benton CC in Albany, Ore. . . . The tournaments were to have been played last weekend at Everett CC and, in fact, three women’s games were played on Thursday before the campus was shut down because of coronavirus concerns. A student from Everett CC later tested positive. The campus received a thorough cleaning and reopened on Monday.

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Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, the start of a junior B playoff series between the Oceanside Generals and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has been postponed. The North Division final was to have started Tuesday night in Parksville, but BC Hockey said several Campbell River players are self-isolating with flu-like symptoms. . . . Gerry Bickerton, the Generals’ president, told Nanaimo NewsNOW that his team is healthy. “Hockey-wise it’s frustrating but public safety-wise this has to be done,” Bickerton said. “With what’s happening right now, BC Hockey went and did their questioning and they’ve made their decision.” . . . It is hoped that the series now will begin Saturday in Parksville. . . . Alex Rawnsley’s story is right here. . . . As of Tuesday night, there hadn’t yet been a positive test for coronavirus on Vancouver Island.


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported via Twitter on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Kings “have banned their scouts from plane travel because of the COVID-19 virus. If they can’t drive to the game, they’re not to go.” . . . Campbell followed that up with: “Buffalo Sabres scouts are still flying, but not to Europe. They’ve also told their scouts that if they feel uncomfortable about flying, they don’t have to fly.”


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Some of Tuesday’s other developments . . .

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors played a home game in front of fans on Tuesday night, despite an aggressive recommendation from the City of San Francisco on Friday that all large, non-essential events be cancelled. . . . This isn’t sitting well with city officials. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the online news site Mission Local. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” . . . The Warriors have said that they don’t plan any changes before their next home game, either. That game is scheduled for Thursday. . . .

The NBA will hold a conference call involving team owners on Wednesday afternoon during which they will discuss possible moves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each franchise was required to have “several contingency plans in place” by Tuesday, including “an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist, the identifying of a specific facility to test for coronavirus and a plan to limit the number of team and arena staff members that would interact with players.” . . . On Wednesday, the owners are expected to discuss the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. . . .

The Austrian EBEL (Erste Bank Ice Hockey League) cancelled the remainder of its season, with the German DEL quick to follow suit. . . . The EBEL features teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. A statement from the league stated that “no championship title will be awarded in the 2019-20 season.” . . . The DEL statement read, in part: “The DEL is forced to end the current season. . . . The reason for this is the banning by federal states of events such as DEL games with more than 1,000 spectators. . . . Due to the premature end of the season, there is no German champion this year. As the main round winner, the EHC Red Bull Munich, together with the Adler Mannheim, the Straubing Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin, represent the DEL in the Champions Hockey League (CHL 2020-21).” . . .

Igor Eronko, a Sport-Express hockey writer and KHL-TV commentator, tweeted that “Moscow plans to cancel all the sports events with more than 5,000 spectators. . . . It will definitely affect the KHL playoffs.” . . .

For an in-depth look at postponements, cancellations and more from the hockey world, check out this right here from Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog. There is a whole lot of information here. . . .

The Ivy League shut down all spring football practices, effective Tuesday morning and running through at least April 5. . . .

The Ivy League also cancelled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were to have been played this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The Princeton women and Yale men were awarded the league’s NCAA tournament bids. . . . The Ivy League also made the decision to limit attendance at all sporting events through the end of its spring season. . . .

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cancelled the rest of its state boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey and boys swimming tournaments. . . . The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association has also cancelled its playoffs. . . .

Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has recommended all indoor games be played without spectators. That would include the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, whose next home game is scheduled for March 24. . . . DeWine tweeted that “for indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents and others essential to the game.” . . . The Blue Jackets later issued a statement, saying that they have been in contact with the NHL and “it has been determined that our scheduled games, including Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticket fans that wish to attend.” . . . The Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland starting on Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy. Thus, they won’t be open to the public. . . .

The Big West Conference will play its conference tournaments without fans in the buildings. The men are to play this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim; the women will play at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. . . .

The Zac Brown Band has postponed a spring tour. . . . BMI, a music rights management company, has postponed its Latin Awards that had been scheduled for Los Angeles on March 31. A new date hasn’t yet been chosen. . . . The Coaches Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was to have run April 10-12 and April 17-19, has been postponed to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. It annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. . . . Stagecoach, a country music festival, also has been postponed. It, too, is held at the Empire Polo Club. Originally scheduled for April 24-26, it now is to be held Oct. 23-25.



I have spent the past couple of days cleaning out a filing cabinet. Of course, it never gets done as quickly as it should because, well, there are all of those old stories to read.

Like the one about when the WHL officially stopped referring to 20-year-old players as overage. The decision was made at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on April 2, 1985, when it also was decided to allow teams to dress three such players, up from two.

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

At the same meeting, the WHL made 12-year-olds ineligible to be placed on teams’ protected lists. Prior to that decision, a 12-year-old took up two spots on a team’s list.

The WHL, at the time, continued to allow the listing of 13- and 14-year-old players without any restrictions.