I have long wondered why some hockey leagues play a long, grinding regular season only to get to the playoffs and seemingly rush to get them over with as quickly as possible. I mean, shouldn’t the playoffs be the highlight of your season? Shouldn’t it all be about crowning the league’s best team? If it is, why not slow things down and let the players enjoy it?
Well, it turns out I’m not alone.
“ . . . I think in terms of injuries it’s having an effect on every team,” Derek Stuart, the general manager and head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, told the Kimberley Bulletin’s Paul Rodgers the other day. said. “We play a ridiculous amount of games in a short time and guys are getting hurt. It’s something that I’ve said before has got to change, but they have injuries as well, it’s not just us.”
At the time, the Dynamiters and Nelson Leafs were tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven semifinal series. The Leafs went into Kimberley and won, 4-3 in OT, on Monday night and — you guessed it! — they played again the very next night, this time in Nelson. This one needed extra time, too, before Nelson won, 2-1, in the second OT period. Game 7, had it been needed, was to have been played tonight in Kimberley. Three games in as many nights at this stage of a season simply is silliness.
Look, I’m not picking on the KIJHL here because other leagues seem to get in a hurry like this, too. But . . . why do leagues get to this time of their seasons and force teams to play three games in three nights or even four in five?
In some instances, I’m sure the primary reason is that everything is based on the championship at the end of the season — be it provincial or national. Leagues have to be finished their playoffs in time for their champion to get to that competition.
That being the case, why can’t the leagues start their seasons earlier, or hack some games from the regular-season schedule?
They owe it to the players.
“It’s crazy,” Stuart said. “It’s absolutely insane what we’re making these young kids do, playing this many games in such a short period of time. It’s insane . . . I can’t believe that it’s actually happening.”
By that point, Rodgers reported that Kimberley had played 17 games in 30 days, with Nelson having played 20 games in 30 days.
The Dynamiters were without F Carter Spring (broken leg), F Ty Smith (broken ankle) and F Conner Furukawa (knee).
Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, has a degree in Soviet studies from the Air Force Academy. Here he is in conversation with Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:
““Here, any sane individual is traumatized at what they’re seeing. And it’s still impossible for us, as I’m sure you agree, we can’t feel what it would be like to drive you wife and your daughter and son to the border, and say goodbye and know you’re going to go back and die, because the Russians are going to pull this bulls—t that a lot of people fall for, including some of the people in our government.
“Those are the people that really make me sick. For political and personal reasons, they’re willing to jump on a (Vladimir) Putin bandwagon. Guys like (Sen. Ted) Cruz … you could just go down the list. They’re just despicable people for even thinking about saying the things they’ve said. You’ve got the people on Fox News I won’t even name, they know what they’re saying, they’re highly intelligent people, but they’re still willing to do it. Just lickspittles of the highest order.”
Nine of Canada’s junior A leagues will have representatives in Estevan, Sask., in May to play for the Centennial Cup. Including the host Bruins, there will be 10 teams competing, from May 19-29. . . . “In lieu of today’s announcement,” read a news release, “it was also determined that, since each of the nine member-league champions will advance directly to compete in the Centennial Cup, the four CJHL regional championship events (Fred Page Cup, Dudley-Hewitt Cup, ANAVET Cup, Doyle Cup) won’t be held this season.” . . . Keep in mind that the BCHL pulled out of the CJHL before this season got started, so its champion won’t be in the Centennial Cup competition.
Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald reports that the Silvertips will be without D Ronan Seeley on a week-to-week basis. Seeley, a 19-year-old in his fourth WHL season, suffered an apparent shoulder injury on Friday during a 5-3 loss to the host Vancouver Giants. F Adam Hall of the Giants was given a minor for boarding on the play and then was suspended for three games under supplemental discipline. . . . “The good news for Seeley and Everett,” Patterson wrote, “is that (GM/head coach Dennis) Williams said he’s fully confident Seeley will be back in time for the playoffs to start, which being around April 22.” . . . Seeley, with 41 points in 48 games, and Olen Zellweger, with 67 points, including 55 assists, in 48 games, gave the Silvertips two minute-eating veteran defencemen, who are a big reason why Everett sits atop the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers and five up on the Portland Winterhawks.
Some news on the Kootenay Ice, just in case there are WHL fans out there who remember them . . .
TUESDAY IN THE WHL:
F Raphael Pelletier scored twice to help the host Swift Current Broncos to a 5-3 victory over the Regina Pats. . . . Pelletier, who has 17 goals, broke a 3-3 tie at 17:02 of the third period. . . . Regina F Connor Bedard ran his point streak to 21 games as he scored twice to give him 43. His second goal, coming on the first penalty shot of his WHL career, tied the score 3-3 at 6:44 of the third. He also has goals in seven straight games. . . . Bedard, who also had an assist, now has 83 points in 51 games. . . . Swift Current was without G Reid Dyck, F Josh Filmon and D Owen Pickering, all of whom are in Kitchener for tonight’s Top Prospects Game. . . . With Dyck away, the Broncos had Joey Rocha, who is from Nanaimo, backing up Isaac Poulter. Rocha, who turned 17 on Jan. 22, has yet to play a WHL game. He spent this season with the U18 Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask. . . . The Broncos (24-30-7) hold down the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, one point behind the Lethbridge Hurricanes and two ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders. The Pats (23-29-5) are 10th, four points behind the Broncos. . . .
F Jack Finley scored his 20th goal of the season with 15.3 seconds left in OT to give the Winnipeg Ice a 3-2 victory over the Raiders in Prince Albert. . . . F Vladislav Shilo (6) had pulled the Raiders even at 7:22 of the third period. . . . The Raiders got 39 saves from G Tikhon Chaika. . . . Ice G Daniel Hauser stopped 25 shots in improving his numbers to 25-2-1, 2.06, .914. . . . Winnipeg (44-9-5) is tied with the idle Edmonton Oil Kings (45-12-3) atop the Eastern Conference. The Ice holds two games in hand. . . . The Raiders (24-29-5) are ninth, two points behind Swift Current. . . .
In Victoria, F Bailey Peach’s 34th goal, at 13:43 of the third period, broke a 2-2 tie and the Royals went on to beat the Kelowna Rockets, 4-2. . . . F Riley Gannon helped the winners with his 20th goal and an assist. . . . The Royals also got a goal, his 15th, and an assist from F Tarun Fizer. . . . The Royals (20-34-6) are seventh in the Western Conference, four points behind the Vancouver Giants and three ahead of the Prince George Cougars and Spokane Chiefs. . . . The Rockets (34-17-6) are fifth, four points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The Royals and Rockets will play again tonight in Victoria.
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