Restrictions hit some B.C. hockey teams . . . Another football buffet in U.S. . . . Did Red Wings get the wrong Brown?

And so it begins . . .

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, took action Saturday in an attempt to halt skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers. . . . Restrictions placed on two health districts — Coastal and Fraser Valley — shut down hockey in most of B.C.’s Lower Mainland. . . .

The 12-team Pacific Junior Hockey League, with junior B teams scattered across the region, tweeted that it would be postponing all games after Saturday at 10 p.m. “We are working with BC Hockey, ViaSport and Provincial Health Office to manage through this period,” the PJHL tweeted.

The junior A BCHL has four teams in the restricted area, but the league hadn’t made an announcement of any kind as of late Saturday. . . . However, the Powell River Kings announced on Twitter that their Sunday exhibition game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals has been cancelled “due to recent orders from the Provincial Health Officer.” . . .

While minor hockey teams won’t be allowed to play games in the two health districts, they will be permitted to practice. In fact, BC Hockey said that games are “cancelled/postponed . . . until further notice.” . . .

Dr. Henry said the restrictions mean “no indoor competitions or games for this short period of time. These activities can be replaced with individual exercise or practice and drills, as we did previously before we started the phases of our restart of sports programs. That allows everyone to maintain safe physical distancing when participating in these important physical activities.”

Adrian Dix, the health minister, added: “Indoor sports where physical distancing can’t be maintained are suspended, as are all travel for sports into/out of these regions.”


CBC News: Alberta is reporting 919 new cases of COVID-19, another all-time high for the province. An additional 5 deaths have been reported, for a total of 357 since the pandemic began.

Hockey Canada has as many as 47 players heading to Red Deer for its national junior team selection camp that is to run from Nov. 17 through Dec. 13. . . . Two U.S. college coaches — Mel Pearson of Michigan and Tony Granato of Wisconsin — have expressed reluctance to free up players to attend a Canadian camp that is to be four weeks long and with no guarantees that their guys will make the final roster. . . . So it could be that D Owen Power, a 17-year-old freshman at Michigan, would be in Red Deer. “I wish I didn’t have to make a tough decision like I’m probably going to have to,” Pearson told The Michigan Daily.“But he’s here to go to school and play hockey, not just the hockey.” . . . Tony Granato, the head coach at Wisconsin, has the same thoughts on F Dylan Holloway, a first-round pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL’s 2020 draft. “You’re asking a lot of a young man to leave school for that length of time for an 11-day tournament,” Granato told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I know it’s a unique situation. I know it’s a unique year. It’s a unique year for all of us. That’s why we’re playing a lot of games before Christmas, because we’re squeezed as far as the length of our season.” . . . The Big Ten is to open its season on the Nov. 13 weekend.



Ryan Thorpe, Winnipeg Free Press: Manitoba reports 271 new cases of COVID-19 (Saturday). 156 cases from Winnipeg health region. 39 cases for Southern health region, which goes into level red Monday. There are seven more deaths — a new, grim record high for the province.

Peter Woods, the executive director of Hockey Manitoba, told Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun earlier in the week that there have been some issues with rec leagues. . . . “If you’re irresponsible that could cause our program to shut down and effectively that’s what has happened,” Woods said. “There’s been a spread within hockey, not within our program, but outside our program and we’ve been tarnished, in a sense, because they participate in the same sport but they’re not members of our program and we have no control over them. . . . It’s been reported that people are drinking in the dressing room and congregating outside the dressing room. We all get tarnished with the same brush and it’s a disservice to the people in our programs that are following the proper protocols. We’re forced to pay a penalty for that because we play the same game.” . . .

The MJHL is on a break until Nov. 20, although the Steinbach Pistons and host Winnipeg Freeze may complete a suspended game on Nov. 15. The game at the RINK Training Centre was suspended at 14:40 of the first period because of poor ice conditions.

Other hockey, like the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League, is on hold until further notice.


The QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens have suspended activities after a staff member tested positive. The Sagueneens played the Rimouski Oceanic on Tuesday. . . . On Saturday night, a game between the Oceanic and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar was halted moments after it began. The league said it was making the move as a preventive measure.

CBC News: Quebec reports 1,234 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 additional deaths. The province has seen a total of 113,423 known cases and 6,431 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. 523 people are in hospital and 78 are in intensive care.


CBC News: Ontario’s Peel Region is bringing in stricter COVID-19 measures than ordered by the province. Among them: Banquet halls and event spaces must close. Wedding receptions are not allowed. Residents are asked not to visit another household, even outside.


Ann Killion, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“As darkness and cold set in over the Northern Hemisphere, coronavirus cases spike, deaths continue to mount, previously reopened countries lock down again . . . and American football keeps trying to play games.

“The 49ers and Packers played a game on Thursday that they shouldn’t have. Twelve NFL teams are struggling with positive tests, and five shut down their facilities during the week. The Raiders have thus far been fined a cool million dollars for violations of coronavirus protocol. Ten college football games were canceled or postponed this weekend, including Cal against Washington and another Pac-12 game, Arizona at Utah. That brings the cancellations this season to 47. Three Stanford players were ruled out of the Cardinal’s game against Oregon, hours before kickoff, “due to COVID-19 testing results and contact tracing protocols.” A top-four contest took place between Clemson and Notre Dame, but college’s biggest star, Trevor Lawrence, couldn’t play because of a positive test.

“Everyone in football is walking a tightrope, but no one knows where it ends.”


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

I think it’s fair to say that the coronavirus looks forward to Saturdays, especially with the buffet that NCAA football and the teams that represent institutions of higher learning serves up on a weekly basis. In case you think there is any chance of the numbers coming down soon in football country, I present . . .

Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman, who were calling the game for FOX, had a real chuckle about the Mike Gundy lookalike — he is the Oklahoma State head coach who wears his facemask as a chin diaper all game long every Saturday — and the bodyguards. Brando and Tillman couldn’t be bothered to point out that not one of the five was wearing his facemask the proper way.

In the hours before opening the Pac-12 season against host Oregon, Stanford scratched starting QB Davis Mills, WR Connor Wedington and DE Trey LaBounty, all due to COVID-19 protocols. . . . The game, however, went on. . . . Oregon won, 35-14. . . .

The Chicago Bears placed DB Deon Bush on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday night. He won’t play in Sunday’s game at the Tennessee Titans.


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.


Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun has been writing features on former Wheat Kings and you really should think about checking them out. The latest one is about D Larry Brown, who once was traded by the New York Rangers to the Detroit Red Wings, who may have been thinking they were getting Arnie Brown. Seriously! . . . It was a terrific deal for Larry Brown, though, because he got to room with Gordie Howe. . . . Oh, and the photos with the Larry Brown story are flashes from the past. That’s Rich Bull, long-time pro at the Brandon Golf and Country Club, beside a bespectacled Brown in the middle row of the team photo of the juvenile Brandon Travellers. . . . Bergson’s latest story in what has become a long and entertaining series is right here.


McCrimmon sells Wheat Kings to local firm . . . Had been sole owner since 2000 . . . J&G has deep roots in Brandon

WheatKings

How will the Western Hockey League look without Kelly McCrimmon as a franchise owner?

That is the question today after McCrimmon sold the Brandon Wheat Kings to the J&G Group of Companies, a Brandon firm that is led by Jared Jacobson, who is the president and CEO. He will take over as the Wheat Kings’ governor, with McCrimmon staying involved as alternate governor.

The WHL’s board of governors has approved the sale, which is to close on Sept. 15.

“We believe this is the right decision,” McCrimmon said in a news release. “The game has been so good to my family, I am fortunate now to be part of a great organization in Las Vegas with the Knights, and it became apparent a succession plan was needed. I feel good for people in Brandon and western Manitoba that the Wheat Kings will be in great hands with Jared and will always be a big part of the City of Brandon.”

JaredJacobson
JARED JACOBSON

Jacobson was born and raised in Brandon and, according to the news release, “has been actively involved in the Jacobson & Greiner third generation family business from an early age. Through Jared’s leadership, determination and vision, the organization has seen spectacular growth, expanding to 32 companies, encompassing all areas of construction.”

McCrimmon, from Plenty, Sask., played two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings. He returned to the organization in 1988, bought one-third of the franchise from Bob Cornell in 1992, and has been the sole owner since 2000.

However, McCrimmon, now 59, signed with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights as assistant general manager on Aug. 2, 2016. Then, on May 2, 2019, he was named general manager.

After dealing with the media and talking about the sale of the Wheat Kings earlier Tuesday, he spent the evening in the NHL’s Edmonton bubble watching the Golden Knights beat the Dallas Stars, 3-0, to even their Western Conference final, 1-1.

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Gary Lawless, a former Winnipeg Free Press sports writer who now is the Golden Knights’ Insider, has more on the sale of the Wheat Kings right here.

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If you haven’t seen this already, here’s a piece I wrote on McCrimmon for The Coaches Site five years ago . . .

Kelly
Longtime Brandon Wheat Kings owner Kelly McCrimmon has sold the WHL franchise. (Photo: nhl.com)

Kelly McCrimmon is the owner of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.

He also is the team’s governor, general manager and head coach.

He also is the head coach of the Canadian U-18 team that will play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.

Did we mention that McCrimmon is the chairman of the WHL’s competition committee?

Yes, the 54-year-old, who originally is from Plenty, Sask., wears a lot of hats, none of which has kept him from being successful.

He has been the Wheat Kings’ general manager since 1989 and now is acknowledged as perhaps the best GM in the WHL. With him at the helm, the Wheat Kings have become one of the WHL’s top franchises and best teams.

At the league level, McCrimmon has been a player for more than 20 years, serving on one committee or another, and always having a voice.

And let’s not forget that he is a married man with a family.

Whew! By now you are wondering where he finds the time. . . .

Well, the more you talk to McCrimmon, the more you realize that his working life is governed by all those clichés that you hear so much about . . . work ethic . . . surround yourself with good people and let them do their jobs . . . be true to yourself and always do what is best for the organization . . .

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Perhaps the most interesting thing about McCrimmon is that it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The original plan was for him to be a farmer.

“My plans,” he says, “were to get my degree and farm.”

After playing two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon headed for Ann Arbor, Mich., where he played four seasons with the Wolverines while he earned a business degree.

(Yes, McCrimmon played NCAA hockey after spending two seasons in the WHL, but that’s another story for another time.)

McCrimmon and his brother, Brad, had been raised on the family farm that is operated by their parents, Faye and Byron, near Plenty. The brothers, who were teammates on the 1978-79 Wheat Kings, even bought some land that was an extension of the family farm.

“I graduated in 1983,” Kelly says. “I was married after my sophomore year, and by the time I graduated we were expecting our first child. I went back to the farm, as planned.”

McCrimmon, who has two grown children with wife Terry, spent two years there, during which time he also dipped his toes into the coaching pool for the first time, playing and coaching with the Kerrobert Tigers of the Wild Goose Hockey League. He could do that during the winter months and go back to farming in the spring.

He found that he quite enjoyed the coaching side of things and it wasn’t long before he was coaching the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars. Still, he says, “I was fully committed to farming.”

What once had been a mixed farm (grain and cattle) now was grain only, which made it easier to spend winters with a hockey team. So spending two winters coaching in North Battleford, and another as head coach of the SJHL’s Lloydminster Lancers, didn’t compromise the farming side of things.

Then would come the offer that set him on the road that he still is on today.

The Wheat Kings were a franchise in transition, not finding much success on the ice or off. At this stage, they were being operated by the Keystone Centre. McCrimmon came on board and would spend half his time working on Keystone Centre affairs and the other half with the Wheat Kings.

“One year of doing that,” McCrimmon says, “and they approached me to be the general manager.”

McCrimmon pauses, then adds: “I was fully intending at that time to go back to farming and yet this meant moving away . . . and a deviation from the plans.”

Amazingly, he still considered himself a farmer, not a hockey man.

By now, Bob Cornell owned the Wheat Kings. Halfway through McCrimmon’s first season (1989-90) as general manager, head coach Doug Sauter fell ill with GuillainBarré syndrome. You guessed it . . . McCrimmon stepped in as head coach.

In hindsight, McCrimmon admits that this was his awakening as a WHL general manager. The Wheat Kings of that era would get caught up every season in the race just to make the playoffs; if they got there, they would more often than not lose out in the first round. In one 10-season stretch, they didn’t qualify on eight occasions. Rinse, repeat. . . .

With McCrimmon coaching, the Wheat Kings finished tied for the last playoff spot with the Swift Current Broncos, who won the play-in game, 5-4.

“Our team was primarily 19-year-old players and three 20-year-olds,” McCrimmon says. “Swift Current had six 16-year-olds.” In 1993, the Broncos would win the WHL title and play in the Memorial Cup.

After that experience, McCrimmon came to the realization that what the Wheat Kings were doing “was wrong.” So he began working towards changing the franchise’s thought process.

The next season, the Wheat Kings won 19 games. Then they put up 11 victories. The howling in Brandon wasn’t all coming from the Prairie wind.

Despite what was happening on the ice, Cornell recognized that McCrimmon was moving things in the right direction. So Cornell offered McCrimmon one-third ownership in the franchise, a move that meant a whole lot to the young GM.

“That was as much belief as he could possibly show in me after winning 19 and 11 games . . . he felt comfortable enough with me running his hockey club to want to make me a partner,” McCrimmon says. By 2000, McCrimmon would be the sole owner.

McCrimmon becoming a partner meant one other thing.

“Me being a farmer wasn’t going to happen,” he says.

That summer (1992), Bob Lowes signed on as head coach. He would stay for nine years, nine years in which McCrimmon says he never once thought of going back behind the bench.

In Lowes’ first season, the Wheat Kings won 43 games, lending credence to McCrimmon’s building plans. That season, Brandon set a CHL record for the largest improvement from one season to the next.

By the spring of 1995, the Wheat Kings were in the Memorial Cup, having lost to the host team, the Kamloops Blazers, in the WHL’s championship final. The Wheaties were there again a year later, this time as WHL champions. And they were in the WHL final again in 1998.

One thing would lead to another and Lowes would leave. Dean Clark would coach the team to two final fours. Mike Kelly would replace Clark, with McCrimmon taking over from Kelly in March of 2004. McCrimmon had made some moves to strengthen the lineup, such as acquiring Erik Christensen, the reigning WHL scoring champion. McCrimmon didn’t like the way things were going, so he stepped in. Brandon was ousted in the second round, but was in the WHL final the following season.

Since then, McCrimmon has been the head coach for nine of 11 years, the two-year gap coming when former player and assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk was in charge.

The Wheat Kings have missed the playoffs twice in the 23 seasons since that 11-victory winter. Yes, they’ve come a long way since missing the post-season eight times in 10 years.

************

During his voyage, McCrimmon learned the importance of having good people behind the scenes. Not only is it important to have them there, it’s important to keep them.

“I am pretty hands on with some things,” McCrimmon says, and some people will say that is something of an understatement. But, he adds, “the people in key positions have complete autonomy to run the business.”

That was never more evident than more than 10 years ago when McCrimmon decided it was important that he get his Master of Business Administration (MBA).

In the two years that took, the team was in good hands on the ice with Clark in charge. The other key people were Al Macpherson, Rick Dillabough and Lyn Shannon.

Macpherson joined the Wheat Kings as a scout in 1986 and was promoted to director of player personnel in 1998, a position he filled until his retirement in the summer of 2013. He remains associated with the team as its senior advisor, while veteran WHL scout Wade Klippenstein is the director of scouting.

Dillabough now is the director of business operations and sponsorship. He has been with the franchise since 1990.

Shannon, an employee since 1991, handles the accounting side of things.

When McCrimmon was working toward his MBA through Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Macpherson ran the scouting, and Dillabough and Shannon handled the business/financial side. During that time, McCrimmon was confident things were in good hands.

It is important, McCrimmon says, “to keep people in place.”

Darren Ritchie, who played four seasons with the Wheat Kings (1991-95), has been an assistant coach for eight seasons. The other assistant, David Anning, a former MJHL player and coach, has been there for three seasons.

Because of the number of hats McCrimmon wears, he says his assistants have “more responsibility . . . a great deal of responsibility.”

With everything else on his plate, McCrimmon decided this spring that there was room for one more thing. So he now is head coach of Canada’s summer U-18 team. This will be his first time with a Canadian national team.

“I have always had a relationship with people at Hockey Canada,” says McCrimmon, adding that he has long scouted Hockey Canada camps, especially those of the U-17 variety. Another thing that pushed him in Hockey Canada’s direction is the presence of Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz, a long-time friend, as part of HC’s management group.

Also, don’t ever underestimate McCrimmon’s desire — it’s almost a need with him — to better himself. Working with the U-18 team gives him the opportunity to coach alongside Sheldon Keefe, the OHL’s coach of the year with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and Darren Rumble, a former Seattle Thunderbirds assistant coach who now is head coach of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats.

“It’s a good chance to work with good coaches,” McCrimmon says, pointing out that all three worked the benches of teams that got into the final four in each of their leagues. He talks of it being a “good challenge” in terms of “personal growth.”

As he puts it: “Responsibility is good for you in terms of growing. It was a good opportunity to pursue, and I know that age group well.”

The man, it’s fair to say, has never run from a challenge. As he says, “Coaching is a challenge . . . hosting the Memorial Cup is a challenge.”

Yes, McCrimmon was mostly responsible for the 2010 Memorial Cup having been played in Brandon, where it was a resounding success. In March 2011, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce honoured him with its President’s Award as the business person of the year.

“I enjoy everything I’ve done in hockey,” McCrimmon says. “I love scouting, building, developing.

“I work hard. I always have . . . and I manage my time well.”

A reporter’s mind flashes back to a bitterly cold winter’s night in Regina, more than 20 years ago. It was a Sunday, about 1 a.m. A Tim Hortons outlet on the east side was empty except for a couple having coffee, decaf you should know.

The front door opened and an icy blast blew in, bringing with it a man who was rubbing his hands together as he tried to shake off the cold.

Yes, it was McCrimmon. He had been scouting somewhere in the hinterlands of south-western Saskatchewan. He wanted a cup of coffee to get him started on the last leg of the trek.

As he got back in his vehicle, he was almost as close to Plenty as he was to the Wheat Kings’ office.

McCrimmon left the parking lot that morning and headed east towards Brandon. He was a hockey man, not a farmer.

Scattershooting on a Tuesday evening after spending time on Monday with Sabrina . . .

Scattershooting

If you’re wondering, Dave Ayres and his wife, Sarah, are expected back in the Toronto area today (Wednesday) after being feted in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday. You will recall that Ayres, who had a kidney transplant in 2004, is the EBUG (emergency backup goaltender) who helped the Carolina Hurricanes beat the host Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3, on Saturday night. . . . They are expected to be back in Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night where he again will be the EBUG, this time with the Vancouver Canucks in to play the Maple Leafs. . . . You don’t suppose that he might . . . nah, never happen.


BoardingPass


Congrats to Trevor Weisgerber, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Weisgerber, 40, who underwent a kidney transplant in St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon on Jan. 26, has been named winner of the Joe Bloski Award as the league’s coach of the year. . . . The Warriors went 30-13-1 and tied for fourth place in the 12-team league, one point out of third and seven short of first. They will open a first-round playoff series against the visiting Notre Dame Hounds on Thursday. . . . Weisgerber told me on Tuesday that “I am feeling pretty good . . . the fun begins on Thursday!” . . . If you aren’t familiar with Weisgerber’s story, you will find it all right here.



Grant Rezansoff, who played two seasons (1979-81) with the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, died on Saturday at his home in Red Wing, Minn. A native of Surrey, B.C., he was 58. . . . In his second season with the Cougars, he scored 40 goals and added 57 assists. . . . After moving on from the WHL, Rezansoff played in the International and Central leagues before spending two seasons in Europe. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


Disneyland


The New York Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla, who last played in 2001, a total of $1,193, 248.20 a year until 2035. Now we are free to wonder if the NHL is headed into the same territory. . . . At the NHL trade deadline, it was pointed out that the Buffalo Sabres are paying D Christian Ehrhoff the nice sum of $857,143 per year until 2028. He last played with the Sabres in 2013-14 and was last in the NHL in 2015-16 with the Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Meanwhile, F Ilya Kovalchuk, who has gone from the Los Angeles Kings to the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals in the past few weeks, is taking up cap space on four different NHL teams, with the New Jersey Devils also in the Payin’ Ilya Club.


GiftCard


Until reading a book titled Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey, by Jeremy Allingham, I wasn’t aware that former Seattle Thunderbirds/Kelowna Rockets enforcer James McEwan had filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada.

It turns out that the lawsuit now is more encompassing that that, as Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out here:

“Already facing a class-action lawsuit over not paying its players a minimum wage, the three major junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League could soon find themselves facing a concussion lawsuit that could include hundreds, if not thousands, of former frequent fighters in junior hockey.

“What started as a lawsuit launched against the CHL, the WHL and Hockey Canada by former WHL player James McEwan in January 2019 was recently re-filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include both the OHL and QMJHL. Six days after the lawsuit was re-filed, the QMJHL postponed a vote on whether or not to ban fighting, a vote that was scheduled for that day, but was moved to August.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.



JUST NOTES: Having heard about Sabrina Ionescu in recent days, I got a chance to watch her on a TSN channel on Monday night as her Oregon Ducks beat the host Stanford Cardinal. Earlier in the day, Ionescu had spoken at the memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi — Ionescu was close with both of them. She also was fighting a flu bug and apparently was sick to her stomach before the game. The 5-foot-11 point guard then went out and led the Ducks to victory, in the process becoming the first player, male or female, in NCAA Division 1 history to have career totals of at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Yes, she is quite a player. Try to tune in if the Ducks are on TV again. . . . How goofy has the NHL’s trade deadline day become? Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports, singling out one incident from Monday: “The best moment of the day came when Johnny Gaudreau inexplicably left the ice at the Calgary Flames practice, leading everyone to freak out and speculate. It turns out he just had to pee. Trade deadline day is the best.”

Scattershooting after watching the GOAT vs. The Kid . . . Chiefs’ Larson OK, just sore . . . Boyko sparks Ams’ victory

Scattershooting

Tony Romo is in his second season as an analyst on CBS-TV’s No. 1 NFL crew. He already is No. 1 in his field. He was at his best — and then some — on Sunday as he worked the game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. Oh my, was he good!


grandma

By now you may have heard that Gladys Knight is to sing The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in her hometown of Atlanta. Richmond, B.C., blogger TC Chong expects her to arrive on The Midnight Train To Georgia.

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Here’s RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Gladys Knight will sing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl. Pip Pip hooray!”


Chong also reports that “China has successfully grown cotton on the moon. President Trump immediately put a 25-per-cent tariff on it.”



If you’re like me and spend time watching PTI five days a week, would you agree that we are watching Michael Wilbon grow into an angry old man? Or is it all part of a shtick?


I really wish someone could explain how the Excited States got to the point where the Clemson Tigers, the NCAA’s top football team, were treated to fast food in the White House one day before Michael Strahan, a host on the TV show Good Morning America, invited the team for a visit and a feast of lobster and caviar. I mean, shouldn’t it be the other way around?



If you are a gatherer of hockey cards, you may want to get them out and start taking a good look at the backgrounds. That’s because Stephen Zerance has discovered the Menendez brothers, who killed their parents in 1989, in front row seats at an NBA game that is part of a 1989-90 card that features Mark Jackson of the New York Knicks. . . . This is an interesting story and it’s all right here.


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You think it’s easy being a reporter in this day and age of high technology? Here’s a tweet from Perry Bergson, who covers the Brandon Wheat Kings for the Brandon Sun . . .


A quiz from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times . . .

President Trump was widely panned for the Clemson football team’s White House visit because he:

a) Served the players fast-food hamburgers and pizza

b) Regaled them with nonstop political-football stories

c) Kept all the Happy Meal prizes for himself.

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Here’s another note from Perry, about something he saw on social media . . .

Jim DeBow, via Twitter, on President Trump feeding the Clemson football team hamburgers and pizza during their White House visit: “He was going to get Taco Bell but found out that Mexico wouldn’t pay for it.”


A couple of NBA-related notes from Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle . . .

“History won’t view the (Houston) Rockets as a significant powerhouse, but (James) Harden is lodging himself among the all-time greats of individual scoring.”

DeMarcus Cousins made his debut with the Golden State Warriors on Friday, and that resulted in this from Jenkins . . .

“When Cousins fouled out and returned to the bench to rousing applause, (Steph) Curry was beaming. He looked like a parent at his kid’s school play. Harden may win his second consecutive MVP award, and (Boston’s Kyrie) Irving surely will dazzle fans right to the end. In the category of pure leadership, Curry stands alone.”



ThisThat

F Cordel Larson of the Spokane Chiefs, who left a Saturday night game on a stretcher and SpokaneChiefswas taken to hospital, is on the road to recovery.

Larson, 17, was injured in the second period of a 2-1 shootout loss to the visiting Tri-City Americans when he crashed heavily into the end boards.

Larson was released from hospital on Sunday and is expected to join his teammates at the arena today. He won’t take part in practice, but he will be reunited with his teammates.

Dan Lambert, the Chiefs’ head coach, told Taking Note on Sunday night that Larson “is doing well . . . just soreness.”

Lambert also told Taking Note that the play on which Larson was injured “wasn’t a dirty hit . . . just unfortunate.”

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So . . . pretend for a moment that you work for the WHL and your main responsibility is to mete out discipline.

On Saturday night in Spokane, F Cordel Larson of the Chiefs skated down the right side of the offensive zone and went wide on Tri-City Americans D Aaron Hyman.

Hyman put a hip into Larson, who went heavily into the end boards and was down for about seven minutes.

When all was said and done, Hyman had a boarding major and game misconduct, while Larson was on a stretcher and on his way to hospital.

Larson, a 17-year-old freshman from Weyburn, Sask., is listed on the Chiefs’ website at 5-foot-9 and 168 pounds.

Hyman, a 20-year-old Calgarian, is in his fourth full WHL season. The Americans list him at 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds.

As you watch the video in the above tweet, ask yourself: Does that hit warrant a suspension?

The WHL decided it didn’t because Hyman was in the Americans’ lineup on Sunday as they met the Winterhawks in Portland.



The above tweet was posted on Saturday.

If you aren’t familiar with one of the great stories in WHL history, it all began on Jan. 19, 1983, when the Seattle Thunderbirds traded F Tom Martin to the Victoria Cougars in exchange for a bus. Yes, it really happened.

Evan Weiner of nhl.com wrote about the trade on Oct. 31, 2008, and it’s all right here.


SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Red Deer Rebels built up a 3-0 lead and went on to beat the host Calgary Hitmen, 4-1. . . . Red Deer (27-14-3) now is second in the Central Division, one point behind Edmonton Red Deerand a point ahead of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. . . . Calgary (21-19-4) has lost three in a row and now is 10 points behind Medicine hat. . . . The Rebels were playing for the third time in fewer than 48 hours; they went 2-1-0. . . . F Brandon Hagel (27) got Red Deer started with a shorthanded goal at 1:49 of the first period. . . . F Alex Morozoff (8) upped it to 2-0 at 14:59, and F Arshdeep Bains (4) got it to 3-0 at 1:40 of the second. . . . Calgary got its goal fro F Hunter Campbell (2), shorthanded, at 9:50. . . . D Carson Sass (7) scored Red Deer’s fourth goal, on a PP, at 14:41. . . . Red Deer was 1-7 on the PP; Calgary was 0-2. . . . The Hitmen lost F Mark Kastelic at 16:32 of the second period when he was ejected with a match penalty for head-butting. . . . At 3:47 of the third period, Calgary D Egor Zamula was hit with a headshot major and game misconduct. . . . G Byron Fancy stopped 23 shots for Red Deer. . . . With G Carl Stankowski still out of action, G Jack McNaughton made his 19th straight start for the Hitmen. He stopped 28 shots. . . . The Hitmen scratched F Jake Kryski and F James Malm. . . . The Rebels were without D Alex Alexeyev. He left Saturday’s game in the second period, but came back and finished. However, he obviously was unable to play yesterday. . . . Red Deer also was without F Jeff de Wit, who was injured Saturday in a goal-mouth collision. . . . F Sean Tschigerl, a 15-year-old from Whitecourt, Alta., made his WHL debut with the Hitmen. The fourth-overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft, he has 43 points, including 18 goals, with the OHA Edmonton prep team.


The Kamloops Blazers scored the game’s last two goals and beat the Cougars, 3-2 in OT, in Kamloops1Prince George. . . . Kamloops (17-24-3) went into the doubleheader in Prince George having lost six straight. Now the Blazers have won two in a row. They beat the Cougars 3-1 on Saturday night. . . . Kamloops is tied with Seattle for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, one point ahead of the Cougars. . . . Prince George (16-24-4) has lost three in a row. . . . Kamloops is 5-0-0 against the Cougars this season, having outscored them 20-8. On top of that, Kamloops now has won 10 straight games in Prince George. . . . The Blazers went 2-1-0 in playing three games in fewer than 48 hours. . . . F Josh Maser (18) gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead at 12:01 of the second period. . . . The Blazers tied it at 12:27 when D Montana Onyebuchi (5) scored. . . . F Matěj Toman (5) put the Cougars ahead 2-1 at 15:50. . . . F Martin Lang (10) pulled the Blazers even at 8:38 of the third period. . . . F Zane Franklin won it with his 21st goal, at 4:10 of OT. . . . Lang, who had a goal and an assist on Saturday, added an assist to his Sunday goal. . . . The Cougars failed to score on the game’s lone PP. . . . G Dylan Ferguson stopped 27 shots for Kamloops, eight fewer than the Cougars’ Taylor Gauthier, who made his ninth straight start. . . . F/D Jeff Faith returned to the Blazers’ lineup after serving a five-game suspension, but D Luke Zazula missed his second game in a row.


G Griffen Outhouse turned aside 39 shots to lead the Victoria Royals to a 2-1 victory over VictoriaRoyalsthe Silvertips in Everett. . . . Victoria (23-19-1) had lost its previous four games. The Royals are third in the B.C. Division, five points ahead of Kelowna with two games in hand. . . . Everett (33-12-2) has lost three straight. It leads the U.S. Division by nine points over Portland. . . . Outhouse stopped 13 shots in the first period, 12 in the second and 14 in the third. . . . F Tarun Fizer (10) put Victoria ahead at 1:40 of the second period. . . . Everett F Bryce Kindopp (23) tied it 57 seconds into the third. . . . F Kody McDonald (10) broke the tie at 7:54. . . . The Silvertips got 20 saves from G Max Palaga. . . . Both teams were playing for the third time in fewer than 48 hours — Victoria went 1-2-0; Everett was 0-3-0. . . . The Royals scratched D Ralph Jarratt, who apparently was injured while blocking a shot on Saturday night. . . . Victoria was able to dress only 16 skaters, two under the maximum. . . . D Gianni Fairbrother, who had been ill, was back in Everett’s lineup after a two-game absence.


G Talyn Boyko made 45 saves to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 3-2 victory over the tri-cityWinterhawks in Portland. . . . Tri-City (24-16-3) has points in four straight (3-0-1). It holds down the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot by 14 points, and also is fourth in the U.S. Division, just two points behind Spokane. . . . Portland (27-13-5) had won its previous two games. It is second in the U.S. Division, nine points behind Everett. . . . The Americans lead the season series, 5-0-0; Portland is 1-3-1. . . . The Americans played their third game in fewer than 48 hours and finished 3-0-0, with the first two victories both coming in shootouts. . . . Tri-City took a 1-0 lead at 10:49 of the first period when F Kyle Olson scored, on a PP, and never trailed. . . . Olson, who has 13 goals, made it 2-0 at 19:09. . . . F Cross Hanas (6) scored for Portland at 2:49 of the second period. . . . F Paycen Bjorklund (3) restored Tri-City’s two-goal lead at 5:59 of the third. . . . F Joachim Blickheld (40) pulled Portland to within one at 14:31 but the Winterhawks weren’t able to equalize. . . . The Winterhawks outshot the visitors 15-8, 14-5 and 18-5 by period. . . . Boyko, a 16-year-old freshman from Drumheller, Alta., was making his fourth start — his fifth  appearance — of the season. He is 2-1-1, 4.08, .886. The 6-foot-6 Boyko was a third-round pick by the Americans in the 2018 WHL bantam draft.


Tweetoftheday

Three players hospitalized with burns after something goes wrong . . . Giants need head coach . . . Wheaties mourn death of Borotsik

MacBeth

F Roman Horák (Chilliwack, 2009-11) signed a one-year contract with the Växjö Lakers (Sweden, SHL). Last season, with Vityaz Podolsk (Russia, KHL), he had 10 goals and 16 assists in 54 games, while averaging 19:13 TOI per game. . . .

F Levi Nelson (Swift Current, 2004-08) announced his retirement through an interview in The Sheffield Star. Last season, with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite), he had 16 goals and 26 assists in 55 games.


ThisThat

Two members of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and a former teammate are being treated in hospital for burns received on Saturday night.

Matt Alfaro, Jordy Bellerive and Ryan Vandervlis were injured when something went awry involving a bonfire.

Lisa MacGregor of Global News reported that “sources tell Global News they were hurt in a fire in Calgary . . . and one of the players is in critical condition.”

According to a news release issued late Saturday by the Hurricanes:

“All three players are currently being treated in hospital for various injuries sustained in the incident. . . . The Hurricanes’ focus and priority is on the health of the players injured and will have no further comments at this time. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”

Alfaro, from Calgary, was acquired by the Hurricanes from the Kootenay Ice during the 2016-17 season. He completed his junior eligibility by scoring 12 goals and adding nine assists in 20 games with the Hurricanes. In 263 regular-season games, 243 of them with the Ice, he had 62 goals and 93 assists. Last season, he had three goals and nine assists in 26 games with the U of Calgary Dinos.

Bellerive, a 19-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., is the Hurricanes’ captain. Last season, he had 46 goals and 46 assists in 71 games, and was named to the Eastern Conference’s second all-star team. In 206 regular-season games, he has 84 goals and 100 assists.

Bellerive, who wasn’t selected in an NHL draft, signed a three-year entry-level contract with Pittsburgh after attending training camp with the Penguins prior to last season.

Vandervlis, 20, is from Red Deer. In 162 regular-season games, all with the Hurricanes, he has 30 goals and 37 assists. Last season, he was limited by injuries to 19 games, and he finished with 11 goals and eight assists. He underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in early December and was hoping to be completely for his final junior season.


The Vancouver Giants fired head coach Jason McKee on Friday, making the announcement in a late-day three-paragraph news release.

McKee spent two seasons with the Giants, missing the playoffs in 2016-17, with a 20-46-6 record, and making the playoffs in 2017-18, at 36-27-9, good for third in the B.C. Division, Vancouver12 points behind the Kelowna Rockets and three behind the Victoria Royals. The Giants lost a seven-game series to the Royals in the first round of the playoffs.

Barclay Parneta, who is into his first year as the Giants’ general manager, pulled the trigger on McKee, who had one year left on his contract.

According to Steve Ewen of Postmedia, Parneta said: “For me, I’d like someone I’m more familiar with. I don’t want to be starting a (season) with someone I’m just getting to know.”

A couple of free-agent coaches with whom Parneta has at least some familiarity are Serge Lajoie and Brian Pellerin.

Lajoie just finished a three-year stint as head coach of the U of Alberta Golden Bears, guiding them to the 2017-18 Canadian championship. He took over the Golden Bears when Ian Herbers took a sabbatical to work as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. They chose to release Herbers after last season, and he has returned to the Golden Bears.

Parneta was the Tri-City Americans’ assistant general manager before signing with the Giants. The Americans selected Lajoie’s son, Marc, a defenceman, in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft and also signed him, all on Parneta’s watch.

Pellerin, who played four seasons (1987-91) with the Prince Albert Raiders, has been the associate coach with the Americans for four seasons. He also spent four seasons (2004-08) as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks.

In between Portland and Tri-City, he coach with the Central league’s Amarillo Gorillas, the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage and the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

The Giants join the Kamloops Blazers, Edmonton Oil Kings and Swift Current Broncos as teams in search of a head coach.

You would think McKee, 39, would be of interest to the Oil Kings. From Lloydminster, Alta., he spent 10 seasons with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints, the last six as general manager and head coach, before joining the Giants. Under McKee, the Saints won three AJHL titles in six seasons and he twice was the league’s coach of the year

The Oil Kings are looking for a head coach after firing head coach Steve Hamilton after four seasons on May 29. Hamilton had been an assistant coach for four seasons before moving up to head coach.

Of course, the Oil Kings also need a general manager, having parted company with Randy Hansch at the same time.

Ewen’s complete piece on McKee’s firing by the Giants is right here.


Jack Borotsik, who played two season with the Brandon Wheat Kings, died on June 8 at BrandonWKregularthe Brandon Regional Health Centre. He was 68. . . . Borotsik, who was from Brandon, played two seasons (1967-69) with the Wheat Kings when the WHL was the Western Canada Hockey League. He totalled 60 goals and 98 assists in 119 regular-season games. He got into one NHL game, that with the St. Louis Blues in 1974-75. . . . The family has asked that donations in his memory be made to a charity of one’s own choice. . . . In November 2016, Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun featured Borotsik in one of his stories on past Wheat Kings. That story is right here.


Myles Cathcart has resigned as general manager of the MJHL’s Neepawa Natives. Cathcart, who had been in the position for seven seasons, left after the organization decided to charge each of its players a “travel fee” of $267 per month. “It’s just my philosophical view that junior hockey should be different than AAA (midget),” Cathcart told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun. “I’m not mad, I just decided that it would be a good time for somebody to put their stamp on whatever they wanted to do. I’m not leaving on bad terms, I just didn’t want to do it.” . . . Bergson’s complete story is right here.


TheCoachingGame

Phil Roy is the new general manager and head coach of the junior A Notre Dame Hounds, an SJHL team that plays out of Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. . . . Roy had been an assistant coach with the Clarkson U Golden Knights since 2011. From St. Leonard, Que., Roy takes over from Clint Mylymok, who resigned in order to sign on as GM/head coach of the NAHL’s Maryland Blackbears, an expansion team. Mylymok had been with the Hounds for four seasons.


The junior B 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Dale Hladun, their general manager and head coach, to a three-year extension. Hladun is preparing for his fourth season with the Wranglers. Under Hladun, the Wranglers won the 2015-16 KIJHL championship, as well as the Cyclone Taylor Cup and the Keystone Cup.

Scattershooting: The Memorial Cup, a flawed playoff format and more

Scattershooting

The tears hadn’t yet dried in Regina on Monday night when the bleating began on social media, with some fans crying for a change in the format of the four-team Memorial Cup tournament.

The Pats, the host team for this year’s tournament, had just dropped a 3-2 decision to the whlhost Swift Current Broncos in Game 7 of an opening-round WHL playoff series.

Of course, that means the Pats are finished until the Memorial Cup begins, something that is more than 40 days away.

A year ago, it was the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, the host team for the 2017 tournament, who got bounced in the first round. They came back, under head coach Rocky Thompson, a former WHL player and coach, to win the whole thing.

But, the social media gurus wanted to know, how is it fair that a team can lose in the first round and still win the national championship?

No, it isn’t right. But it’s time for people to realize that the Memorial Cup stopped being a national championship in 1983, which is when the present format that includes a host team was adopted.

If you ask around the WHL, those who have been involved in championships will tell you that the Memorial Cup doesn’t carry the cachet of a WHL championship. They also will tell you that playing in the round-robin Memorial Cup can be a letdown after taking part in a gritty, competitive best-of-seven championship series.

Now that we have that out of the way . . .

What the WHL needs to do is admit that its present playoff format is flawed, and — if it isn’t just providing lip service about wanting to minimize travel for its players — go back to having the first two rounds within each division. After the first two rounds, the division champions meet for conference titles, and the two survivors play for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

The WHL likes to think of itself as a mini-NHL, which is why the present format — one that includes two wild-card entries in each conference — is in place. What’s good for the NHL is good for the WHL, or so the thinking goes.

This playoff format proves that isn’t always the case.

Late last month, with the first round unfolding, the WHL sent its commissioner, Ron Robison, on tour. He started in the Pacific Northwest, mostly doing damage control after that debacle in the Oregon State Legislature in Salem involving minimum-wage legislation, but he also addressed the playoff format.

“We really feel like this is the best format and it works really well for our league,” Robison told Brandon Rivers of dubnetwork.ca. “First of all, when you consider the travel demands on our players, we want to really have those games in the first round in the division, because travel is limited. At the same time, it helps with your rivalries. . . .

“If you look throughout our league in each division, we have some great rivalries. Why not get that competition level really up high in the playoffs and see how it goes from there. There’s pros and cons but, generally speaking, this format makes a lot of sense for our league.”

Later, while in Medicine Hat, Robison told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News:

“I think when you look into it, it’s more than just the seeding of teams in a playoff competition, whether it’s conference format or a divisional format. For us, in this particular case it’s about the fact that we can reduce travel from the players’ standpoint, we can take advantage of the great rivalries we have.”

We will assume that Robison said this with a straight face, even though he was in BrandonWKregularMedicine Hat, the home of the Tigers, a team that ended up playing the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round in two straight years. That also meant travelling to Dauphin, Man., where the Wheat Kings played their first-round home games in both series because their home arena had been taken over by the annual Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.

Had the WHL used a divisional playoff format, the Tigers would have met the Calgary Hitmen in last season’s first round, and the Kootenay Ice this time around. The Ice, of course, didn’t even make the playoffs this season, thanks to the wild-card format.

Using the divisional format, the Wheat Kings would have clashed with the Moose Jaw Warriors in this season’s first round. Instead, Brandon ousted Medicine Hat in six games.

(In the Western Conference, the Tri-City Americans, a wild-card entry, swept the B.C. Division-champion Kelowna Rockets. In a divisional format, Tri-City would have opened against the Everett Silvertips, with Kelowna meeting the Kamloops Blazers, who didn’t qualify under this system.)

The present wild-card format also has other flaws.

For starters, the Saskatoon Blades didn’t make the playoffs despite having more victories and more points than two Eastern Conference teams that did advance.

This format also means that every first round includes four series that feature teams that finished second and third in each division. That means that teams that were awfully good over 72 games exit early. Two more awfully good teams are going to go home after the second round, too.

The biggest flaw, however, is that there now is the perception that the wild-card system can be gamed.

I’m not saying that’s what happened this season, but you may recall that the Wheat Kings were third in the overall standings — and third in the Eastern Conference and East Division — when the trade deadline arrived on Jan. 10. A third-place finish in the division would have meant a first-round meeting with Swift Current.

The Wheat Kings chose to trade away two top-end players — defenceman Kale Clague and forward Tanner Kaspick — for a bundle of future assets.

In the end, Regina moved past Brandon into third place, and, as we saw, lost out to Swift Current in the first round. The Wheat Kings ended up in possession of the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, which sent them into the playoffs against Medicine Hat, which had finished atop the Central Division, albeit with four fewer victories and five fewer points than Brandon.

The Wheat Kings now will open the second round against the host Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday. The Wheat Kings finished the regular season with more victories (40-33) and more points (85-72) than the Hurricanes.

There can be no arguing that the Wheat Kings ended up with an easier route to the conference final than they would have had with a third-place finish in their division. Of course, the Hurricanes may have something to say about that.

There also can be no arguing about the job done by Brandon general manager Grant Armstrong, who added nine assets, including four first-round bantam draft picks, in those two transactions.

Inadvertent or not, he seems to have helped his club improve its playoff odds.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, Tri-City, the first wild-card entry, will meet the TriCity30Victoria Royals in the second round, meaning it avoids a potential clash with Everett or the Portland Winterhawks for another round. Everett and Portland are preparing for a second-round series after the Winterhawks beat the visiting Spokane Chiefs, 3-1, in Game 7 last night.

Who knows how all of this will play out, but it all leaves me with one question:

What will be the reaction by the WHL pooh-bahs should Brandon and Tri-City, a pair of wild-card teams, end up in the championship final?


I recently came into possession of the feature stories written this season by Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun that focus on former Wheat Kings players. This was the second season in which Bergson has written one of these stories each week, and they are most enjoyable. If you can find them, I highly recommend them. I also wonder why more junior hockey writers — assuming that they really love to write — haven’t followed Bergson’s example by producing stories like these.


The fact that none of the numerous Hockey Insiders had the scoop on the retirements of Daniel and Henrik Sedin says a lot about the longtime Vancouver Canucks forwards. Obviously, there aren’t any leaks in the world of the future Hockey Hall of Famers. They were true to themselves right to the end.


Sooner or later, the WHL should be issuing a news release detailing the involvement by its 17 Canadian teams in the organ donor awareness program this season. You may recall that, among other things, the teams wore Don Cherry-tribute sweaters and then made them available via auction. I am guessing that the promotions raised well over $300,000 for the four western branches of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.


On Sept. 9, 1965, left-hander Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw a perfect game. Yes, Vin Scully called it. Right here for your reading enjoyment, courtesy salon.com, is that call. It is, as is mentioned here, “pure baseball literature.”

Off-ice officials off to Olympic Games . . . Rebels get closer to Ice . . . Soy sets franchise record in loss

A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

Two men who work as off-ice employees at WHL games are headed to the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Dan Courneyea, who heads up the Kamloops Blazers’ off-ice crew, and Ed Petrullo, a scorekeeper with the Seattle Thunderbirds, leave Friday for PyeongChang, where they will be part of the crew working the hockey competitions for the IOC. . . . Courneyea has been with the Blazers for 24 years. He has plenty of international experience, having worked, among other things, a World Junior Championship, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and a World Women’s Championship. . . . Petrullo worked the 2010 Wknter Games in Vancouver and also travelled to Kamloops to work the World Women’s Championship in 2016. . . . How do you get to PyeongChang from Kamloops? You fly to Vancouver, wait for four hours, then fly to Seoul. From there, it’s two hours on a high-speed train to PyeongChang.


When the Brandon Wheat Kings won the 2015-16 WHL championship by beating the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., the man who drives the bus for the Prince George Cougars found himself in the team photo. . . . Wait? What? . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun explains right here how Ralph Posteraro got into the championship photo. This is junior hockey at its story-telling best.


D Baron Thompson of the Brandon Wheat Kings has drawn a four-game suspension for a hit on D Colin Paradis of the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Saturday night. The Wheat Kings won that game, 4-3 in OT. . . . Thompson served the first game on Tuesday when he sat out Brandon’s 5-2 loss to the visiting Regina Pats. . . . Thompson will miss Friday’s game against visiting Saskatoon and Saturday and Wednesday games in Swift Current. He will be eligible to return on Feb. 16 in Prince Albert. . . . Paradis is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury.


F Erik Middendorf, 17, has committed to attending Colorado College and playing for the Tigers next season. Middendorf, from Scottsdale, Ariz., was a fourth-round selection by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. This season, he is playing in the U.S. National Team Development Program. He has four goals and four assists in 15 games against USHL opposition. He also has seven goals and eight assists in 38 games with the U.S. U-18 team. . . . Middendorf had committed to the U of Denver on Sept. 19, 2016, but he walked away from that sometime last month.



IF THE PLAYOFFS OPENED TODAY …

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Prince Albert at Moose Jaw

Regina at Medicine Hat

Brandon at Swift Current

Kootenay at Lethbridge

——

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Seattle at Everett

Spokane at Kelowna

Tri-City at Portland

Vancouver at Victoria


Scoreboard

WEDNESDAY:

At Prince Albert, F Jordy Stallard scored two goals to lead the Raiders to a 4-3 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Prince Albert (22-20-11) has points in nine straight games (6-0-PrinceAlbert3). It is tied with Saskatoon for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. They will meet in Saskatoon on Saturday. . . . Kootenay (23-28-3) had lost five straight. The Ice is third in the Central Division, seven points behind Lethbridge and four ahead of Red Deer. . . . The Raiders got out to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Stallard, at 5:39, and F Curtis Miske (19), on a PP, at 17:27. . . . The Ice tied it as F Cameron Hausinger (16) scored at 17:50 of the first, and F Sebastian Streu (8) did the same at 13:45 of the second. . . . F Spencer Moe (7) put the Raiders back out front at 18:43 . . . Kootenay tied it again, this time when F Alec Baer (22) scored at 8:04 of the third period. . . . Stallard broke the tie with his 34th goal, at 18:42. . . . The Raiders got two assists from each of Miske and D Vojtech Budik. . . . Prince Albert was 1-2 on the PP; Kootenay was 0-2. . . . G Ian Scott earned the victory with 20 saves. . . . Ice G Duncan McGovern, back after serving a one-game suspension, made 30 saves. . . . The Raiders had D Sergei Sapego, a Belarusian freshman, in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 20 and only the second time since Dec. 1. . . . Announced attendance: 1,961.


At Medicine Hat, the Tigers struck four times in the first period en route to a 6-0 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Medicine Hat (27-21-7) had lost its previous four games Tigers Logo Official(0-3-1). The Tigers lead the Central Division by five points over Lethbridge. . . . Edmonton (14-31-7) has lost two in a row. . . . Prior to the game, Corey Graham, the radio voice of the Oil Kings, pointed out via Twitter that the Tigers “have defeated the Oil Kings 16 straight times in the regular season and have won 19 of the last 20 regular-season matchups.” . . . You may add one to each of those numbers. . . . The Tigers got those first-period goals from F Tyler Preziuso (12), at 2:43; D David Quenneville (22), at 11:12; F Ryan Chyzowski (17), at 17:34; and F Mark Rassell (43), shorthanded, at 19:27. . . . F Gary Haden (14) and F Josh Williams (7) added third-period goals. . . . The Tigers got two assists from F Elijah Brown, and one each from Quenneville, Rassell and Chyzowski. . . . Preziuso (head) was playing for the first time since Jan. 26. . . . Medicine Hat was 0-4 on the PP; Edmonton was 0-5. . . . G Michael Bullion stopped 31 shots in recording his second shutout of the season and fifth of his career. . . . The Oil Kings got 33 saves from G Josh Dechaine. . . . With six regulars injured, the Tigers had Garin Bjorkland, 15, backing up Bullion, and D Daniel Baker, 16, also was in the lineup. Baker, from the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team, played in three games earlier in the season. . . . Bjorklund plays for the midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes. . . . Announced attendance: 2,771.


At Red Deer, F Kristian Reichel scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Rebels a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Hitmen. . . . Red Deer (16-25-13) has points in eight straight Red Deergames (6-0-2). The Rebels are fourth in the Central Division, four points behind Kootenay. Those two teams will play each other three more times, including a home-and-home series on the regular-season’s final weekend. . . . The Hitmen (16-30-7) have points in two straight (1-0-1). . . . F Conner Chaulk (11) gave Calgary at 1-0 lead at 2:49 of the first period. . . . F Mason McCarty (27) pulled Red Deer into a tie at 17:38. . . . The home team took a 2-1 lead when F Chris Douglas (5) scored, on a PP, at 13:37 of the second period. . . . Calgary F Tristen Nielsen (11) tied it, shorthanded, at 15:03. . . . Red Deer was 1-4 on the PP; Calgary was 0-2. . . . G Ethan Anders stopped 29 shots for Red Deer, nine fewer than Calgary’s Nick Schneider. . . . With D Colin Paradis (undiscosed injury) and D Alex Alexeyev out, the Rebels brought in D Sam Pouliot from the BCHL’s Powell River Kings. . . . Alexeyev went home to Russia last month following the death of his mother. He is due to return to practice on Friday. . . . Announced attendance: 3,545.


At Kamloops, F Riley Woods broke a 1-1 tie with a shorthanded goal late in the second period as the Spokane Chiefs skated to a 3-1 victory over the Blazers. . . . Spokane (28-19-SpokaneChiefs5) has points in eight straight (6-0-2). It and Seattle are tied for the Western Conference’s two-wild card spots, one point behind the Tri-City Americans, who are third in the U.S. Division. . . . Kamloops (24-25-4) now is nine points out of a playoff spot. . . . F Brodi Stuart (13) gave Kamloops a 1-0 lead at 10:22 of the first period. . . . Spokane F Luke Toporowski (7) tied it at 9:512 of the second period. . . . Woods got his 20th goal on a shorthanded breakaway at 18:04 of the second. . . . F Ethan McIndoe (16) iced it with an empty-netter at 19:03 of the third period. . . . Spokane was 0-2 on the PP; Kamloops was 0-3. . . . G Dawson Weatherill stopped 21 shots for the Chiefs, eight fewer than Dylan Ferguson of Kamloops. . . . Spokane F Kailer Yamamoto had an 11-game point streak come to an end. He had nine goals and 18 assists during that stretch. . . . F Josh Pillar, 15, made his WHL debut with the Blazers and came close to tying the game on a redirection late in the third period. A first-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft, he returned to the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos after the game. . . . The Chiefs had F Cordel Larson, 16, make his WHL debut. He was a ninth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. Larson plays for the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask. . . . F Nick Chyzowski played in his 324th regular-season game with the Blazers, tying him with D Aaron Gionet for third on the franchise career list. F Brendan Ranford holds the career record, at 348. . . . Associate coach Scott Burt was back with the Chiefs after having his number (12) retired by the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads in Boise on Saturday. He spent seven seasons there, winning championships in 2004 and 2007. . . . Announced attendance: 4,097.


At Portland, F Ryan Hughes, who left in the first period with an apparent leg injury, snapped a 5-5 tie at 7:29 of the third period and the Winterhawks went on to an 8-5 Portlandvictory over the Victoria Royals. . . . Portland (32-18-4) has won two in a row, and is second in the U.S. Division, three points behind Everett. . . . Victoria (32-19-4) had won its previous two games. It is second in the B.C. Division, two points behind Kelowna. . . . F Kaid Oliver (6) gave Victoria the lead at 2:29 of the first period. . . . Conor MacEachern, a defenceman who has been playing up front lately, scored his third goal of the season for Portland at 10:42. . . . F Cody Glass (26) gave the home team its first lead at 11:23. . . . F Tyler Soy pulled the visitors even at 14:25, only to have F Mason Mannek (9) scored for Portland at 18:00. . . . Soy opened the second period with two goals, at 0:41 and 2:31. The hat trick leaves him with 27 goals this season. . . . Soy’s second goal was the 141st regular-season score of his career, breaking the record set by Ryan House (Chilliwack Bruins, 2006-11). Earlier this season, Soy set franchise career marks for assists and points. He now has 304 points, including 162 assists, in 307 games. . . . Portland went back out front, 5-4, on second-period goals from F Joachim Blichfeld (17), at 11:03, and F Keiffer Bellows, at 12:21. . . . F Matthew Phillips (39) got Victoria back into a tie at 6:55 of the third period. . . . Hughes broke that tie with his ninth goal, at 7:29. . . . Bellows (28) added insurance at 9:31 and F Skyler McKenzie (40) got the empty-netter, at 18:14. . . . Portland got two assists from each of Glass, D Henri Jokiharju, F Alex Overhardt, D Dennis Cholowski and McKenzie, with Blichfeld and Bellows adding one apiece. . . . Victoria got three helpers from F Dante Hannoun, with Phillips getting two and Soy adding one. That line finished with 10 points. . . . Phillips ran his point streak to 15 games. . . . Soy has six career hat tricks, one of them this season. . . . Victoria was 0-1 on the PP; Portland was 0-3. . . . G Cole Kehler stopped 23 shots for the Winterhawks. . . . Victoria starter Dean McNabb allowed seven goals on 43 shots in 53:46. Griffen Outhouse came on in relief and stopped all three shots he saw in 6:02. . . . The Royals now will play three in a row against Kelowna. They’ll play Friday and Saturday in Victoria and Monday in Kelowna. . . . Announced attendance: 4,795.


At Kelowna, G Brodan Salmond turned aside 25 shots to help the Rockets to a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . Kelowna (33-16-4) had lost its previous two games. It is KelownaRocketssecond in the Western Conference, one point behind Everett. . . . Vancouver (28-17-8) had points in its previous four games (3-0-1). It is third in the B.C. Division, four points behind Victoria. . . . Kelowna held a 15-2 edge in first-period shots, but only led 1-0 thanks to a goal by F Kole Lind (28), at 3:10. . . . F Conner Bruggen-Cate’s 15th goal, shorthanded, at 6:09 of the second period made it 2-0. . . . The Giants cut into the lead at 19:13 when F Davis Koch got No. 20. . . . Vancouver put it away with two third-period goals, from F Carsen Twarynski (34), at 11:21, and F Dillon Dube (23), at 17:47. . . . Kelowna got two assists from F Kyle Topping, with Lind and Twarynski adding one each. . . . Kelowna was 0-1 on the PP; Vancouver was 0-4. . . . G Brodan Salmon recorded the victory with 25 saves. . . . The Giants got 32 stops from G David Tendeck. . . . D James Hilsendager and F Nolan Foote were among Kelowna’s scratches. . . . The Giants were without F Ty Ronning (ill), F Aidan Barfoot (ill), D Darian Skeoch (undisclosed injury) and F Milos Roman (ankle). . . . Announced attendance: 4,807.


THURSDAY (all times local):

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Lethbridge at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.

Kootenay at Regina, 7 p.m.

Prince Albert at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Saskatoon at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.

Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Calgary at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.

Kamloops at Prince George, 7 p.m.

Tri-City at Portland, 7 p.m.

Kelowna at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Seattle vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7:30 p.m.

Spokane at Everett, 7:35 p.m.


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