Another big day for COVID-19 . . . WHL doing the virus shuffle as more teams hit . . . Bedard leaves Regina with game to remember

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 WHL2positive. 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 Canuckswhen 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 . . . 

Jim Benning:

“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.

Dr. Bovard:

“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 nhl2Avalanche 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.

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 Patshome 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 MooseJawWarriors 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 KamloopsRoyals, 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.


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