Sign stealing in the WHL? Yes, it happened . . . Not watching The Twilight Zone here . . .

It wasn’t quite the Houston Astros, but it turns out that the Kamloops Blazers were involved in the sign-stealing racket in the spring of 1998.

They were in the early stages of a first-round playoff series with the Prince George Kamloops1Cougars when the accusations started flying.

It seems the Cougars were of the opinion that Garnet Stevenson, the Blazers’ backup goaltender, was spying on Prince George head coach Ed Dempsey and his line calls.

“As Dempsey called out the next line combination,” I wrote in the Regina Leader-Post on March 28, 1998, “the Cougars felt that Stevenson was taking it all in and getting that information to Kamloops head coach Marc Habscheid.

“So, for Game 4, the Cougars had enforcer Richard Peacock stand at the end of the bench PrinceGeorgenearest the Blazers’ bench. His job was to screen out Stevenson’s view of Dempsey.”

According to Jim Swanson, then the sports editor of the Prince George Citizen: “Peacock, who also helped by opening the gate for teammates, stood next to Stevenson, talking to him and reminding the goaltender the Cougars knew about the Kamloops spy job. Early in Game 4, Habscheid kept looking for Stevenson for a hint of what the Cougars were planning but he had nothing to report.”

The Blazers won Games 3 and 4 — 5-3 and 2-1 — to take a 3-1 series lead. Prince George then won two straight, 4-1 at home and 4-3 in OT on the road, to force a Game 7, which it won, 2-1, at home.

As for the sign-stealing accusations, Stevenson told me via email this week: “The story was 100 per cent true.”


We were watching an episode of Hogan’s Heroes (so sue me) on Tuesday night when a promo came on for The Twilight Zone. Hey, you know the music . . .

Dorothy: We’re not watching that!

Me: Why not?

Dorothy: Because we’re living in The Twilight Zone right now.

Me: Hard to argue with that kind of reasoning.


Quarantine


As had been anticipated, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has cancelled Wimbledon for 2020. Not postponed. Cancelled. . . . The tournament first was held in 1877. Prior to this, only the First and Second World Wars had kept it off the tennis calendar. . . . It was to have been held from June 29 through July 12. . . . The 2021 tournament is scheduled for June 28 through July 11. . . . At the same time, the ATP and WTA announced that all of their events have been cancelled through July 13. So that takes care of the grass-court season. . . . With Wimbledon gone, the first major the season is scheduled to be the U.S. Open, which is to begin on Aug. 31. For now. . . .

The Queen’s Plate, which was to have run at Woodbine on June 27, is expected to be postponed indefinitely. . . . The race dates to 1860 and is the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. . . .Earlier, Woodbine Entertainment postponed the start of its thoroughbred season, as well as the harness racing season at Mohawk Park. . . .

According to Golf Digest, the R&A is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it has cancelled the 2020 Open Championship (aka the British Open). The tournament was to begin on July 16 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club. . . . The Golf Digest story is right here. . . .


The NFL, meanwhile, is steaming towards the start of its 2020 season early in September. A schedule is to be released around May 9. . . . On a Tuesday conference call, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said: “All of our discussions, all of our focus, has been on a normal, traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums and going through a full 16-game regular season and a full set of playoffs. That’s our focus.” . . . But as The Sports Curmudgeon points out, it was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who knows a thing or two about this pandemic, who noted: “We don’t set the timetable; the virus sets the timetable.” . . .



The Ottawa Senators have announced that four more people from their organization have tested positive for the coronavirus. They now have had seven people test positive, all of them having been part of the group that travelled to California and returned to Ottawa on a chartered flight on March 12. All told, five players and one staff member have tested positive, along with broadcaster Gord Wilson. According to the Senators, the five players and staff member all have recovered. . . . Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has more right here.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and often the eye is glass.”



Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet posted his weekly 31 Thoughts on Wednesday and, as usual, there is some neat stuff here. Especially good is the latter part of the piece where he pays tribute to a number of young players who weren’t able to complete their seasons, including WHLers Jadon Joseph and the Warm twins, Beck and Will. . . . It’s all right here.


The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have added Craig Carter to their staff as assistant general manager and director of player personnel. . . . Carter, who is from Langley, B.C., was the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ director of hockey operations last season after spending two seasons as a scout with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.


Blazers lay off office staff, hockey side takes pay cuts . . . Canada not sending any teams to Olympics, Paralympics . . .

Taking Note was told Sunday afternoon that the Kamloops Blazers laid off their office Kamloops1staff on Friday afternoon and that those on the hockey staff have taken pay cuts. . . . The WHL’s regular-season was suspended on March 12 and cancelled on March 18. The Blazers finished atop the B.C. Division. . . . The league continues to hope that it will be able to get in some kind of playoff season, leading into the Memorial Cup in Kelowna, May 22-31. . . . Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, is the Blazers’ majority owner. Also in the ownership group are Shane Doan, Jerome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor, all of them ex-Blazers and former NHL players. . . . I don’t know if any of the WHL’s other 21 teams have followed suit, but it’s expected that other teams will be experiencing layoffs, perhaps as soon as this week. . . .


The International Ice Hockey Federation has cancelled the 2020 world men’s hockey championship that was scheduled for Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland, from May 8-24. . . . As well, the IIHF has postponed its annual Congress, which was to have been held during the tournament, until further notice. . . . As for the possibility of playing the championship in Switzerland next year, the IIHF statement read: “The potential scenario of a postponement of the World Championship in Switzerland to another year is a matter that must be discussed within the congress given the fact that the host countries for the forthcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are fixed until Year 2025. Therefore, such a decision will not be forthcoming until congress is next in session.” . . .



Next up on the postponement/cancellation calendar? It seems highly doubtful that the Olympic Summer Games will be held as scheduled — in Tokyo, from July 24 through Aug. 9. . . . Too many world-class athletes aren’t able to train in the proper places while surrounded by necessary support staff to allow these Games to be held. . . . However, the IOC says it is going to continue to play the waiting game, for at least the next four weeks. . . .

That story took a turn on Sunday night when the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) announced that they “have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.” . . . A news release continued: “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.” . . . Good on the COC and CPC for ending the uncertainty. . . . It will be interesting to see if this opens the floodgates to other countries withdrawing. . . .

——

Here’s Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “The International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee continue to guarantee that the Olympics will be held on schedule, four months from now. Sorry, God, those are powerful people, you have no choice but to end the virus pronto. . . . The IOC has no Plan B. That is so optimistic and bold! And dumb as a senile gerbil.” . . .


Washing


The Ottawa Senators announced on Saturday that they now have a second player who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The Senators made a trip through California, from March 6-12. Eight people who were on that trip now have been tested, with two positive results. . . . From a news release: “The total number of people who travelled with the club is 52, including players, staff, media, guests and flight crew. Of those on the trip, 44 have shown no symptoms, eight people have been tested, and two positive results were received. We are awaiting the results from tests that took place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.” . . .


ICYMI, the Baltimore Ravens traded DE Chris Wormley to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday, marking the first trade between the AFC North teams this century. As Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times put it: “So see, folks, there is still hope for peace in the Middle East.” . . .


Here’s Bob Molinaro, in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “Don’t mean to be callous, but postponement or cancellation of the Tokyo Games wouldn’t ruin the summer. We got along fine without the Olympics the past three summers, didn’t we?” . . .


Area51


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has been spending his days revisiting works by a handful of writers, then offering a thought for the day. . . . Here’s one, from Will Rogers: “The man with the best job in the country is the Vice-President. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How is the President?’ ” . . . On Saturday, he offered up another gem from Will Rogers: “You know, horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.” . . . On Sunday, it came from Mark Twain: “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” . . .

——

Here is the curmudgeonly one again: “If there are no restarts in U.S. sports over the next month, the best I can look forward to is the beginning of the Mongolian National Premier League — that’s soccer don’t you know — in April. (Just so you know, Ulaanbaatar City is the defending champion there.)”

——

The Sports Curmudgeon passes along a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: “Dentist — A person to whom you provide boat payments as a way of thanking him for sending a shooting pain through your entire central nervous system.” . . .



Cleaning


Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports: “What a few months it’s been for Boston, huh? (Mookie) Betts traded. NHL season postponed with the Bruins in first place. Tom Brady leaves. Jayston Tatum turns three years older than 19. Marcus Smart gets the coronavirus. Now (Chris) Sale’s elbow is busted. When are Boston sports teams ever going to catch a break?”


QB Philip Rivers has signed with the Indianapolis Colts, getting a nifty $25 million for one season. But, as Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, points out: “With nine kids, Rivers and his wife need two houses to comply with restrictions on gatherings over 10 people.”


Trump

Cozens gets NHL deal with Sabres. . . . Thomson signs with Senators. . . . Hurricanes have contract with import

MacBeth

F Roberts Lipsbergs (Seattle, 2012-15) has signed a one-year contract extension with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL). Last season, in 22 games with Dinamo Riga, he had two assists in 22 games. He also played 14 games with Liepaja (Latvia, Optibet Liga), scoring four goals and adding seven assists. . . .

F Adam Hughesman (Tri-City, 2006-12) has signed a one-year contract with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). Last season, with Bordeaux (France, Ligue Magnus), he had 16 goals and 12 assists in 44 games. He led the team in goals. . . .

D Matt MacKenzie (Calgary, Tri-City, 2007-11) has signed a one-year contract with Tölzer Löwen Bad Tölz (Germany, DEL2). Last season, in 46 games with Bolzano (Italy, Erste Bank Liga), he had seven goals and 11 assists. . . .

D Artyom Minulin (Swift Current, Everett, 2015-19) has signed a two-year contract with Mettalurg Magnitogorsk (Russia, KHL). Last season, with the Everett Silvertips (WHL), he had one goal and 17 assists in 51 games. . . .

F Igor Bacek (Tri-City, 2005-06) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Hannover Indians (Germany, Oberliga Nord). Last season, in 45 games, he had 14 goals and 26 assists. . . .

F Brady Brassart (Spokane, Calgary, 2009-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Stavanger Oilers (Norway, GET-Ligaen). Last season, in 61 games with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL), he had three goals and eight assists.


ThisThat

F Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes has signed a three-year entry-level contract Lethbridgewith the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. They selected him seventh overall in the NHL’s 2019 draft. . . . Last season, he finished with 34 goals and 50 assists in 68 regular-season games with the Hurricanes. . . . Cozens suffered an injury to his left thumb during the Sabres’ development and underwent surgery earlier this month. The injury is expected to keep him out for up to three months, which means the start of his 2019-20 season likely will be delayed. . . . Cozens, 18, will almost certainly be back for a third season with the Hurricanes. His only other option is to play for the Sabres.


D Lassi Thomson, who played last season with the Kelowna Rockets, has signed a three-KelownaRocketsyear entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators, who selected him 19th overall in the NHL’s 2019 draft. . . . Thomson, from Finland, had 17 goals and 24 assists as a freshman with the Rockets last season. . . . Thomson will turn 19 on Sept. 24. He attended the Senators’ development camp, and he will play for Finland at the World Junior Summer Showcase that is scheduled for Plymouth, Mich., from July 26 through Aug. 3. . . . It hasn’t yet been determined where Thomson will play in 2019-20. The Rockets, who will be host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup, are hoping to get him back, but there has been speculation that he will play for Ilves in Finland’s top professional league.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes have signed Slovakian F Oliver Okuliar, 19, to a WHL contract. He was picked by the Hurricanes in the CHL’s 2019 import draft. . . . Okuliar played last season with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, putting up 14 goals and 28 assists in 66 regular-season games. . . . The Hurricanes’ other import is D Danila Palivko, who will turn 18 on Nov. 30. From Belarus, he had two goals and 13 assists in 61 games last season.


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