The Spokane Chiefs own the first selection in the WHL’s 2021 prospects draft — formerly the bantam draft — that is scheduled to be held on Dec. 9. The draft usually is held in the spring — the last draft was held on April 22, 2020 — but the pandemic forced a move.
In announcing that the draft would be held in December, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, said that making the move would allow “additional time for players in the 2006 age group to be evaluated following a challenging season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We anticipate minor hockey leagues and tournaments will be fully operational in the fall . . .”
Because of the unique development season that the WHL completed last month, it came up with a four-phase process to determine the order of selection for the 2021 draft.
When all was said and done, the Chiefs had the first pick, something they last held in 2015 when they took D Ty Smith. The only other time Spokane has selected first overall was in 2006, when it took D Jared Cowen. Both players went on to captain the Chiefs, twice play for Team Canada at the IIHF World junior championship and become NHL first-round draft selections.
The Tri-City Americans hold the second overall pick on Dec. 9, a slot they have never before occupied.
The Brandon Wheat Kings hold the next two selections after trades with the Victoria Royals and Moose Jaw Warriors. Brandon also owns its first-round pick at No. 22.
On Jan. 10, 2018, the Wheat Kings got 2019 and 2021 first-round selections, along with D Jonathon Lambos and F Ty Thorpe, from the Royals for F Tanner Kaspick and F Cameron MacDonald.
Also at the 2018 trade deadline, the Wheat Kings dealt D Kale Clague to the Warriors for first-rounders in 2019 and 2021, a second-round pick in 2018, F Luka Burzan and D Chase Hartje.
Meanwhile, the Swift Current Broncos have the Nos. 6 and 7 picks. The first of those is their own selection, while they acquired the seventh pick from the Portland Winterhawks for G Joel Hofer. In the Jan. 9, 2019, swap, the Broncos also got a 2019 first-round pick, a second, fourth and fifth in 2020, and a third in 2019.
The Edmonton Oil Kings also hold a pair of first-round selections — one they acquired from the Kelowna Rockets at No. 13 and their own at 19th. On Dec. 14, 2019, the Oil Kings sent D Conner McDonald to the Rockets for that first-round pick and a third-rounder in 2023.
Moose Jaw, which dealt its pick to Brandon, has the 16th pick, having acquired it from the Saskatoon Blades. The Warriors actually acquired that pick from Victoria on Jan. 2020, in a deal that had F Brayden Tracey join the Royals.
As things stand at the moment, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Victoria and Portland are without first-round selections.
The draft lottery was today, but the actual WHL draft isn't until December 9th.
So, WHL G.M.s now have six months where they can trade these 2021 picks and know exactly what # overall pick they are getting/giving. No strategizing required anymore! 😀
According to Ryan Kennedy, a senior writer with The Hockey News, F Berkly Catton of Saskatoon is the 2021 draft’s “top prize.” In 2019-20, Catton had 108 points, including 58 goals, in 30 games with the U15 Saskatoon Bandits. In the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, he had one goal and one assists in five games with the U18 AAA Saskatoon Contacts.
Brandon has never had two picks in the top five since the draft started in 1990. They picked 5-6 in 2019 (Danielson-Zimmer); 4-6 in 2013 (Patrick-Clague); 2-6-7 in 1992 (Redden-Kurtz-Korenko). This is the 3rd time they have three firsts. Also 2019 and 1992. https://t.co/ctWhKWq0kv
The order of selection for the second and all subsequent rounds of the WHL draft were set by using the inverse order of the 2020-21 standings. Here is that order, excluding any trades that may already have been made:
1. Victoria Royals; 2. Red Deer Rebels; 3. Swift Current Broncos; 4. Tri-City Americans; 5. Moose Jaw Warriors; 6. Spokane Chiefs; 7. Lethbridge Hurricanes;
8. Regina Pats; 9. Seattle Thunderbirds; 10. Prince Albert Raiders; 11. Prince George Cougars; 12. Vancouver Giants; 13. Calgary Hitmen; 14. Portland Winterhawks;
The IIHF’s 2021 World women’s hockey championship will be played in Calgary, Aug. 20-31. . . . The 31-game, 10-team tournament is scheduled for WinSport Arena at Canada Olympic Park. . . . It was to have been held in April in Halifax and Truro, N.S., but was cancelled due to pandemic-related concerns. . . . As of now, teams are scheduled to arrive in Calgary on Aug. 10 and enter quarantine before being allowed to begin practising. . . . A tournament schedule has yet to be released. . . . Team USA has won the past five tournaments.
🚨🚨Rick Sparling is writing a book on the 30 year history of the Neepawa Natives. If you have played for the Natives and he has not spoken to you, he needs your help, call him at 204 668 6074. 🚨🚨 #alumnipic.twitter.com/Aq2VqPrR9M
Just to remind us that the pandemic isn’t yet in the rearview mirror, it now has laid claim to the 2021 CP Women’s Open that was to have been played at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver. The only Canadian stop on the LPGA tour was to have been played Aug. 23-29. . . . The 2020 tournament also was cancelled. . . . The 2022 tournament is to be played at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, then it is scheduled for Shaughnessy in 2023. . . . Earlier in the year, the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open was cancelled. It had been scheduled for St. George’s Golf & Country Club in Etobicoke, Ont., June 7-13.
Dorothy will be taking part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on Sunday. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here. . . . Thanks in advance for your generosity.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
OK. We think that the Vancouver Canucks’ schedule has been settled on . . . at least for now.
The Canucks, who last played on March 24 and have been in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak since March 30, are to play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday and Tuesday nights. Earlier in the week, the schedule called for the Edmonton Oilers to visit Vancouver on Friday with the Maple Leafs there on Saturday.
The schedule, as it now sits, has the Canucks concluding their 56-game season by playing 19 games in 32 nights. They actually began the season by playing 19 times in 34 nights.
F Bo Horvat, the Canucks’ captain, addressed the media on Friday and provided some insight into what the club has been through.
“I’ve had the flu before,” he said, “and this doesn’t hit you like a normal flu. It’s not something you want to get, it’s not something you want your family go through either. I can’t stress enough to follow the protocols.”
Horvat also said that he had passed the virus on to his wife, Holly, and that “it hit her a little harder than it hit me.”
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said. “My symptoms were fairly mild . . . I’m not going to lie. It was tough to know my family got it from me.”
At the same time, Jim Benning, the Canucks’ general manager, confirmed that the team had been hit by the P.1 variant that originated in Brazil. It is more aggressive than the original virus, which explains why the Canucks, as a group, had so much more illness than any of the other teams that have been hit this season.
Benning also said that the Canucks have three or four players who may not be ready to return on Sunday, while head coach Travis Green, who also tested positive, has yet to return to the practice ice. The team is hopeful that he will be on the ice today.
And there’s a story right here from Karen Larsen of CBC News.
Ever since Kelly McCrimmon accepted the job in Vegas, change has been a constant for the Wheat Kings. Here's a look at the movement since Aug. 2, 2016 when McCrimmon announced he was joining the Golden Knights. https://t.co/VLtbcJuyL5pic.twitter.com/1LEAaT361r
Before Kelly McCrimmon left to join the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, he had been the Brandon Wheat Kings’ general manager since 1989, or for 27 seasons.
With Friday’s announcement that Darren Ritchie is leaving, the club promoted Doug Gasper, making him its third general manager since McCrimmon’s departure.
Grant Armstrong, who had been the Victoria Royals’ assistant GM, player personnel, succeeded McCrimmon as Brandon’s GM on Aug. 23, 2016.
The Wheat Kings announced on May 7, 2019, that they wouldn’t be renewing Armstrong’s contract.
On July 12, 2019, Ritchie was promoted to general manager. He will be leaving after the completion of this season to join the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs as an amateur scout. He spent 14 seasons with Brandon, moving up from assistant coach (2007-16) to director of scouting (2016-19) and then into the GM’s office.
Gasper, a familiar face in WHL circles, joined the Wheat Kings as assistant GM on Aug. 15, 2019. From Rosetown, Sask., he had been scouting for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks before joining the Wheat Kings. He also spent six seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors, including a stint as their director of scouting (2015-17). Gasper also has scouted for the Prince Albert Raiders.
Ritchie will work for Toronto out of Brandon; Gasper will be relocating to Brandon from Saskatoon at some point in May.
McCrimmon sold the franchise in September to the Brandon-based J&G Group of Companies, headed up by Jared Jacobson, the president and CEO.
The BCHL announced Friday that the Nanaimo Clippers “have been cleared to resume team activities.” The organization had been shut down Thursday to allow for further analysis of a COVID-19 test. It was found to be a negative, so the shackles have been removed. . . . The Clippers are scheduled to play the Victoria Grizzlies this afternoon in Port Alberni. Nanaimo’s Thursday night game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs had been postponed because of the COVID-19 scare. . . . In that cohort on Friday night, Victoria beat the Cowichan Valley Capitals, 10-0.
The B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League is exploring adding an expansion franchise in Kelowna — the UBCO Heat, which would call UBC’s Okanagan campus home. . . . The Heat has put together a committee that, according to its Facebook page, “now is recruiting marketing staff and potential student-athletes to help build a new team for the BCIHL in Kelowna.” . . . The BCIHL is down to three active teams, with the Trinity Western Spartans moving to USport’s Canada West conference and Selkirk College having cancelled its hockey program. . . . You know that expansion will be on the agenda when the BCIHL holds is annual general meeting virtually on May 18 and 19.
It would appear that Mark Rassell, a former WHLer, is thinking about a new career! A native of Calgary, he played four seasons (2014-18) with the Medicine Hat Tigers, then spent two seasons at the U of New Brunswick. . . . He doesn’t mention here whether he knows how to drive a bus, though.
The Kelowna Rockets are scheduled to return to game action tonight in Kamloops against the Prince George Cougars. The Rockets have played only two games in this developmental season, having been sidelined since March 28 because of a COVID-19 outbreak. While the original schedule had the Rockets playing 24 games, the one now on the WHL website has them with 13 games remaining. . . .
Meanwhile, there were four games played on Friday night . . .
Daniel Hauser starts WHL career 6-0-0-0 including 5 wins as the home goaltender. Stops career best 40 and at 17 yrs, 2 mos., 27 days becomes the youngest ICE goaltender to turn away at least that number of pucks since Nathan Lieuwen's 44 (OT) on 1/22/08 (16 yrs, 5 mos., 14 days) https://t.co/Mv2x1hujAn
F Owen Pederson broke a 3-3 tie at 10:27 of the third period and F Michael Milne added another at 12:30 as the Winnipeg Ice beat the Swift Current Broncos, 5-4, in Regina. . . . Pederson, who has 10 goals, and Milne, who has three, each scored twice in this one. . . . D Owen Williams (4) got the Broncos’ last goal at 15:57 of the third. . . . While the Ice improved to 13-5-0, the Broncos (3-14-1) have lost seven in a row. . . . Winnipeg F Peyton Krebs had his point streak snapped at 16 games. Krebs put up nine goals and 21 assists over that stretch. . . . Winnipeg F Connor McClennon, who had his 12th goal and an assist, ran his streak to 11 games. He has 12 goals and 15 assists in 18 games and has only been blanked twice. . . . G Daniel Hauser stopped 40 shots for Winnipeg. . . . Swift Current was presented with the only PP opportunities of the game, and went 1-for-5. . . . The Ice went into the game with a PP that was running at a 34.6 efficiency rate (27-for-78), behind only to the Medicine Hat Tigers (41.8). . . .
The Medicine Hat Tigers scored the game’s last four goals and beat the visiting Red Deer Rebels, 4-2. . . . F Ben King scored both Red Deer goals, at 10:14 of the first period and 4:36 of the second. He has seven goals, and has put up four goals and five assists over his past five games. All told, he’s got seven goals and 10 assists in 15 games for a Red Deer team that now is 2-13-2 and has lost 10 in a row. . . . F Corson Hopwo (12) scored twice for the Tigers, getting them started at 13:34 of the second period and adding the insurance goal at 13:08 of the third. . . . Hopwo has goals in seven straight games. . . . F Brett Kemp (9) tied the game, at 3:29 of the third, and D Eric Van Impe (3) snapped the tie just 33 seconds later. . . . The Tigers, with points in seven straight (6-0-1), now are 10-3-1. . . . Medicine Hat was 3-for-5 with the man advantage. . . .
The Everett Silvertips scored three goals in the second half of the third period to beat the host Seattle Thunderbirds, 5-3. . . . Everett, which had lost two in a row, improved to 10-3-0. . . . Seattle, which had won its previous two games, now is 7-6-0. . . . F Gage Goncalves gave Everett a 1-0 lead at 17:20 of the third period and F Cole Fonstad made it 2-0 just 50 seconds later. . . . Seattle F Henry Rybinski (4) scored in his third straight game, getting his guys on the board at 10:03 of the second period. . . . F Jared Davidson (5) put Seattle out front with goals at 13:48 of the second and 9:25 of the third. Davidson also assisted on Rybinski’s goal. . . . The Silvertips tied it on F Jacob Wright’s fifth goal, at 10:15. . . . Goncalves, who has 10 goals, broke the tie at 11:17 and Fonstad, now with 10 goals, got the empty-netter. He also had an assist. . . . Goncalves also had two assists. He has 19 points in 13 games. . . . Everett G Dustin Wolf stopped 34 shots. He’s 9-2-0, 1.81, .938. . . . Seattle dressed 17 skaters, one under the maximum, with F Payton Mount sitting out this one. He was taken to hospital following a game on Tuesday after being struck on the head by a puck that glanced off the wall behind the Seattle bench. He was checked over and released on Wednesday morning. . . .
In Kelowna, F Jonny Hooker broke a 2-2 tie at 18:08 of the second period and the Prince George Cougars went on to a 5-2 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . Victoria (1-8-1), which has lost five straight, led 1-0 after one period on a PP goal by F Brayden Tracey (6). . . . D Majid Kaddoura (1) pulled the Cougars even at 2:09 of the second period and D Keaton Dowhaniuk (1) gave them the lead just 1:14 later. . . . Dowhaniuk, the third overall pick in the 2019 bantam draft, scored his first WHL goal. . . . F Trentyn Crane, a fifth-round pick in 2018, got the Royals into a tie at 11:40 with his first WHL score. . . . Hooker broke the tie, and F Kuren Gronick (2) and F Tyson Upper (1) added insurance in the last minute of the period. . . . Prince George (4-3-2) outshot Victoria, 41-21, and had a 39-16 edge in the face-off circle.
My wife, Dorothy, who had a kidney transplant more than seven years ago, will take part in her eighth straight Kamloops Kidney Walk on June 6. Unfortunately, it will be a virtual walk for a second straight year, but that won’t keep her from fund-raising on behalf of the Kidney Foundation. If you would like to help her out, you are able to make a donation right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Gaelan Patterson is leaving the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves to take over as director of hockey operations for the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association. Patterson, 30, who played four seasons (2006-10) with the Saskatoon Blades, joined the Ice Wolves prior to the 2018-19 season. From La Ronge, he had been the Ice Wolves’ associate GM/associate head coach. . . . Blaine Gusdal won’t be returning for a 14th season as the head coach of the U of Alberta-Augustana Vikings. The school made the announcement on March 31. Gusdal, 53, is from Erickson, Man. He played two WHL seasons (1984-86), splitting time between the Prince Albert Raiders (one game), Moose Jaw Warriors (59) and Saskatoon Blades (34).
F J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks always has worn his emotions on his sleeve and spoken his mind.
So you have to think the team’s management wasn’t at all surprised when he took the NHL to task on Wednesday.
“This is nothing to do with hockey,” Miller said during a virtual media availability. “To be brutally honest, we’re going to need more time than this to come back and play hockey. Even the guys that didn’t get it aren’t ready.”
The Canucks are scheduled to play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. Thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak that impacted players, coaches, staff members and family members that would be the Canucks’ first game since March 24. All told, there were 22 players, three coaches and one staffer who tested positive.
When the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list was released on Wednesday is still contained seven Vancouver players — D Jalen Chatfield, D Alex Edler, F Jayce Hawryluk, F Nils Höglander, F Zack MacEwen, D Nate Schmidt and F Jake Virtanen.
“I don’t feel ready if I’m being honest . . . It’s kind of crazy,” Miller said. “I know everyone has a job to do but to expect our entire team to be ready to play in one practice and a pre-game skate is a bit hard to comprehend.”
Now the NHL wants the Canucks (16-18-3) to play their last 19 games over a 30-day span. They are sixth in the North Division and not likely to qualify for the playoffs.
“I hope people don’t take this the wrong way,” Miller continued, “I’m a super competitive guy . . . but this isn’t about hockey for our team. This is about the health and safety of our players, their family and their children. This isn’t about making the playoffs.
“What we’re being asked to do is not going to be too safe, if you’re asking me.”
The Canucks are scheduled to practice this morning at 11:15, and it’s to be open to the media.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Blackhawks head coach said that F Adam Gaudette, who was acquired Monday from the Canucks, will be given some time before he dresses for a game. Gaudette was the first of the Canucks to test positive. He was removed from the ice during a practice on March 30.
The Colorado Avalanche cancelled their Wednesday morning skate in St. Louis “due to one positive test from (Tuesday’s) COVID-19 testing.” That person went into isolation; all others tested negative. . . . G Philipp Grubauer was added to Colorado’s COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. . . . G Devan Dubnyk, acquired Monday from the San Jose Sharks, made his first start for the Avalanche last night, stopping 31 shots in a 4-3 victory in St. Louis. . . . After last night’s victory, Colorado head coach Jared Bender said that Grubauer will be out for “more than 14 days.” . . .
The AHL’s Toronto Marlies are on hold through Wednesday because of the league’s COVID-19 protocol. They have had three games postponed. . . . The Toronto Maple Leafs added F Nick Robertson to the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. He had been with the Marlies so this move quite likely was precautionary. . . . The AHL also has the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who are affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers, shut down through Sunday. The league postponed the Phantoms game last night against the host Hershey Bears, and also scrubbed Friday and Sunday games.
The Houston Astros put five players, four of them starters, on the injured list on Wednesday. Catcher Martin Maldonado, infielders Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, DH Yordan Alvarez and utility player Robel Garcia all went on the list. James Click, the Astros’ general manager, later said all five were placed on the list “as a result of health and safety protocols.” . . . The Astros dropped a 6-4 decision to the visiting Detroit Tigers last night.
Sources tell me today that in the days ahead the Canadian Hockey League will announce a new TV deal with @TSN_Sports ..leaving Rogers
This is interesting because Sportsnet announced on Feb. 18, 2014, a 12-year “partnership extension” with the CHL that was to run through the end of the 2025-26 season. That made Sportsnet the exclusive broadcaster of the CHL and the Memorial Cup. . . . Makes one wonder if Sportsnet will pay TSN to take the contract off its hands?
The four Canadian teams that were to have been part of the West Coast League, a wood-bat summer baseball league, have chosen not to play in 2021. The Edmonton Riverhawks, Kamloops NorthPaws, Nanaimo NightOwls and Victoria HarbourCats had announced that they would play a schedule of games among themselves. The Edmonton, Kamloops and Nanaimo franchises are expansion teams. . . . The Kelowna Falcons announced in March that they wouldn’t take part this season. . . . The WCL’s 10 Oregon- and Washington-based teams are going ahead with a 2021 season.
If you have ever been close to a hockey team you will know that it is people like the equipment manager and athletic therapist/trainer who really keep things going. . . . But what’s it like for the people in those positions with a WHL team in these pandemic times? What’s it like behind the scenes in the Regina hub? . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun checked in with the three men who fill these roles with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He came out of it with a terrific long read that is right here.
The Kelowna Rockets were back on the ice at Prospera Place on Wednesday morning, the first time they have skated since they went into a 14-day quarantine after seven positive tests within the organization. An eighth positive was discovered during the quarantine period, but because it happened to someone already in isolation it didn’t impact the 14 days off.
Head coach Kris Mallette was one who tested positive.
“What’s crazy,” he told Global News, “is how it affects everybody differently, that’s the scariest aspect. I was fortunate that for me it was headaches, aches and a cough but it wasn’t anything that wasn’t manageable without taking some sort of medication.”
The Rockets, who had eight games postponed, have only played twice in what is supposed to be a 24-game season. They are scheduled to return to game action on Saturday against the Prince George Cougars in Kamloops.
Meanwhile, there were four WHL games on Wednesday . . .
G Nolan Maier recorded his ninth career shutout as the Saskatoon Blades beat the Swift Current Broncos, 3-0, in Regina. . . . The Blades (13-2-2) have points in five straight (4-0-1). . . . The Broncos (3-13-1) have lost six in a row. . . . Maier now shares the Saskatoon franchise record for career shutouts with Andrei Makarov (115 games, 2011-13). . . . Maier, who has made 151 appearances in three-plus seasons, stopped 27 shots in posting his second shutout of this season. . . . F Blake Stevenson scored twice, at 10:35 and 12:21 of the first period for a 2-0 lead. He’s got seven goals. . . . F Chase Wouters also scored his seventh goal of the season. . . .
F Ben McCartney scored Brandon’s last three goals as the Wheat Kings beat the Winnipeg Ice, 5-3, in Regina. . . . McCartney, who has 11 goals, completed his evening with the empty-netter. . . . The Wheat Kings (13-3-2) opened an early 2-0 lead on goals from F Riley Ginnell (4) and F Brett Hyland (2). . . . The Ice halved the deficit at 4:55 of the second period on F Connor McClennon’s 11th goal, but McCartney got that one back at 9:07. . . . F Conor Geekie (7) got Winnipeg back to within at goal at 13:36, but McCartney counted again at 7:18 of the third. . . . F Owen Pederson (8) again pulled the Ice to within a goal, this time at 14:47, but McCartney put it away at 19:51. . . . Ice F Peyton Krebs had an assist to run his point streak to 16 games, while McClennon has points in 10 straight. . . . The Wheat Kings were handed all six of the game’s minor penalties and gave up two PP goals. . . . The Ice (12-5-0) had won its previous six games. . . . Brandon G Connor Ungar stopped 38 shots. He is 5-1-1, 2.57, .915 in the Regina hub. . . . Brandon is 3-0-0 against Winnipeg this season — 3-2, 4-3 and 5-3 — with one meeting left. . . .
F Eli Zummack scored the game’s last two goals to give the Spokane Chiefs a 4-3 OT victory over the host Portland Winterhawks. . . . Zummack, who has five goals, tied the game on a PP at 19:29 of the third period, then won it at 3:27 of OT. . . . Zummack is on a real roll at the moment. He scored a shorthanded goal and added an assist in Portland’s 7-6 victory on Saturday, then had a goal and three assists in a 4-3 victory over the host Everett Silvertips on Tuesday. . . . F Simon Knak (8) and F Kyle Chyzowski (3) gave the Winterhawks a 2-0 first-period lead. . . . The Chiefs tied it on goals from F Blake Swetlikoff (3), at 6:17 of the second, and F Adam Beckman (9), at 5:35 of the third. Beckman has goals in six straight games. . . . F Tyson Kozak’s first goal gave Portland a 3-2 lead at 9:10. . . . D Bobby Russell assisted on each of Zummack’s goals. . . . G Mason Beaupit was outstanding for the Chiefs, making 48 saves, 25 more than Portland’s Dante Giannuzzi. . . . The Chiefs now are 4-5-3; the Winterhawks are 5-4-3. . . . These teams played each other three times since Friday with Spokane winning twice. . . . D Sage Weinstein, a 15-year-old from Edmonton who was the 18th overall selection in the 2020 bantam draft, made his WHL debut with the Chiefs. . . .
In Kamloops, G Dylan Garand posted a 16-save shutout as the Blazers beat the Prince George Cougars, 5-0. . . . That was Garand’s first shutout this season and the sixth of his career. . . . F Josh Pillar scored the game’s first goal, at 8:06 of the first period. He finished with two goals, giving him five, and an assist. . . . F Caedan Bankier had a goal, his fourth, and an assist, with F Connor Zary and F Orrin Centazzo each recording two assists. . . . The Blazers (7-1-0) have won three in a row. . . . The Cougars (3-3-2) had picked up at least a point in each of their previous four games (2-0-2). . . . Kamloops held a 40-16 edge in shots, including 20-2 in the third period.
Please don’t forget that Dorothy, who had a kidney transplant more than seven years ago, is preparing to take part in her eighth straight Kamloops Kidney Walk. Unfortunately, it will be a virtual walk for a second straight year, but that won’t keep her from fund-raising on behalf of the Kidney Foundation. If you would like to help her out, you are able to make a donation right here. . . . And a huge thank you to those who have already responded to this. Love seeing her smile every time she gets a notification of a new donor.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: The AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats are looking for an assistant coach following the departure of Brady Bakke. He joined the Bobcats prior to the 2019-20 season. From a news release: “A search for a new assistant coach has begun and any candidates looking to put their name forward are asked to send a cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.” . . . The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves also are in the market for an assistant coach. From a news release: “To apply, please submit a cover letter, resume and references electronically to head coach/general manager Kevin Kaminski at email@example.com.”
It's with heavy hearts we mourn the passing of former Wheat Kings captain, Don Dietrich of Deloraine, MB. He embodied what it is to be a Wheat King and will be remembered for his many contributions to the #Westman community.
Don Dietrich, a former defenceman with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings (1978-81) who went on to a pro career, died on Tuesday morning. From Deloraine, Man., and proud of it, he was 59.
He is survived by his wife Nadine and three sons — Tristan, Jake and Nick. The latter two, like their Dad, played in the WHL.
Tristan posted Tuesday morning on the Facebook tribute page that they recently started to honour their husband and father:
“We are sad to announce that Don, Dad, Dins, Beaker passed away this morning peacefully. He fought hard til the end. The ‘I Can’ in him stayed true right til the end.
“If ever having a hard day, remember it can always be worse. A bad day doing something you love is still better than a good day doing something you don’t. Keep your toes up ice! The golden rule must always be followed. Get the most out of life by finding out what you can do for others. Take a second to look at the man in the mirror. Be true to your self. Take ownership. Find a way to win.
“Don made sure he passed on lessons so he could live on in all of us. We love him. Will see him on the other side . . . just not yet . . . not yet.”
It has been almost five years since Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote a terrific piece about Don after a Molson Canadian promotion resulted in his being part of a group that got to play hockey on a frozen lake in the mountains near Invermere.
Dietrich, who was battling Parkinson’s disease and then was diagnosed with cancer, later told Turner: “I’ll put it to you this way. If there’s a heaven on Earth, I’ve been there.”
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has taken a look at the WHL’s plans to get players back on the ice, with a particular focus on the five teams in the U.S. Division. . . . Those five teams are scheduled to begin games on March 19, with all games in Everett or Kent, and with the Portland Winterhawks practising in Vancouver, Wash. . . . At one point, Baker writes: “I’m told not all U.S. Division teams favored playing, which isn’t surprising given risks to players, aged 16-20, paid only nominal ‘stipends.’ There’s no TV revenue at stake and gate-driven WHL squads will lose a bundle by taking the ice.” . . . Officials with the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds told Baker that “their motivation is showcasing and developing players for NHL careers.” That, of course, is what everyone is saying. . . . According to Baker, the Silvertips will have their players in a bubble — “most likely in currently empty dormitories at Everett Community College.” The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, will have their players with billets. . . . As Baker writes, “We’ll see how effective one ‘bubble’ team is when playing others mingling daily with nonquarantined people.” . . . Baker’s complete story is right here.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, held an in-person briefing on Tuesday. Asked when the WHL’s B.C. Division will be able to get its five teams playing again, according to Liza Yuzda of News 1130, she said that health officials “haven’t received an updated proposal in the last few weeks,” adding that they would be “happy to look at it.” . . . She also said that if the province continues on its present trajectory, she would hope for games in March or April.
The NHL announced a number of schedule changes on Tuesday, but also had another postponement on its hands. For the second night in a row, it had to postpone a game between the Nashville Predators and host Dallas Stars because of power-related issues in Texas all due to the inclement weather. . . . Former Lethbridge Hurricanes D Calen Addison made his NHL debut on Tuesday night as the Minnesota Wild played its first game since Feb. 2 because of protocols. The Wild dropped a 4-0 decision to the Kings in Los Angeles. . . .
The NHL had 22 players on its COVID-19 protocol list on Tuesday, with seven of them from the Philadelphia Flyers, who last played on Feb. 7 and are scheduled to play the visiting New York Rangers on Thursday. The Flyers, with seven players on the protocol list, practised on Tuesday after being off for a week. However, they had only 14 skaters, four of them from the taxi squad, and two goaltenders available.
The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs have had four players test positive and now have had four games postponed, including Tuesday game against the host Detroit Pistons. . . . The Spurs remain in quarantine in Charlotte, N.C., since playing the Hornets there on Sunday. . . . The Spurs were to have played road games against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the New York Knicks on Saturday and the Indiana Pacers on Monday. . . .
Due to contact tracing, the Hornets’ next two games have been scrubbed. They were to have played at home against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday and the Denver Nuggets on Friday. . . . The NBA now has postponed 29 games for virus-related issues.
I have received a query from a WHL fan who has in his possession a black New Westminster Bruins sweater (No.22) from 1977-78 or 1978-79. He doesn’t know who wore it, although he wonders if it may have been Don Werbeniuk. . . . If you are able to help with some ID, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear hockey gods: We really, really need a best-of-seven series — a best-of- nine would be better — between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. Their game in Vegas on Tuesday, especially the third period, was hockey as art, even without fans. . . . D Bowen Byram, 19, made the play that led to Colorado’s winning goal late in the third period of a 3-2 victory. The former Vancouver Giants star played 25:03 last night, after going 23:07 in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Golden Knights. The Avalanche is without three defencemen — Cale Makar, Erik Johnson and Samuel Girard — but hasn’t missed a beat with Byram back there.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 10:44 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,298 have died from coronavirus; 832,375 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Tuesday, 9:48 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,395 have died from coronavirus; 836,594 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 10:44 p.m. PT — United States: 486,321 have died from coronavirus . . . 27,692,967 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Tuesday, 9:48 p.m. PT — United States: 487,927 people have died. . . . 27,753,824 have tested positive.
NBC Montana — State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman announced his resignation from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Thursday in a letter to new Director Adam Meier. . . . The announcement came one day after Gov. Greg Gianforte announced plans to lift the state’s mask mandate, which went into effect Friday.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Troy Gillard will be the interim play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels for the approaching 24-game developmental season. He takes over from Cam Moon, now the radio voice of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Gillard, a familiar media face in Red Deer since 2006, has been the host of Rebels broadcasts since 2011. He will be joined on home games by veteran analyst Mike Moller. . . . You may recall reading there last week about the travels of former WHL star goaltender Taran Kozun. Well, add another chapter because he was released by the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears on Tuesday.
A fave Gretzky tale: He’s leaving the Kings hotel in TO before Game 7 v TML in ‘93. Asks security guard how his night’s going. Guy says “quiet now, but it’ll get wild around here by 11 pm” (when Leafs win)” Gretz deadpans: “I wouldn’t worry about that … my job starts at 7:30”.
“They didn’t sugarcoat anything and told him he would never walk again,” Lori Sopotyk told Mart Hastings of Kamloops This Week on Tuesday. “He’s paralyzed from the belly button down and it’s a long, long journey ahead for all of us. That was the first thing out of his mouth, his hockey, that he would never skate again. And he felt like he had let everyone down.” . . . Lori was referring to Kyrell, her 19-year-old son, who was injured in a snowboarding accident near North Battleford, Sask., on Friday and is in a Saskatoon hospital. He played the last two seasons (2018-20) with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. . . . Hastings’ complete story is right here. . . .
A GoFundMe page, launched by Kathleen Zary, the mother of Blazers F Connor Zary, has surpassed $160,000. It is right here should you wish to donate.
Chris Joseph, a former WHL/NHL defenceman, and his wife, Andrea, lost their son, Jaxon, in the accident that occurred almost three years ago when a semi-trailer pulled out onto a Saskatchewan highway in front of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus. But unlike Scott Thomas, who also lost a son in the accident, Joseph doesn’t want Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to be allowed to remain in Canada whenever he is freed from jail. Thomas, whose son, Evan, died in the crash, has written a letter in support of Sidhu’s plea to avoid deportation. . . . “As much as I can admire someone who finds that forgiveness,” Joseph told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, “I personally don’t have it yet, don’t know if I’ll ever get it to be quite honest. Everyone’s forgiveness journey is their own journey. I just can’t understand why you cannot forgive while he’s on a plane back to India.” . . . One thing that Joseph and Thomas can agree on, meanwhile, is the need for a serious upgrade to some of the rules and regulations around Canada’s trucking industry. . . . Campbell’s complete piece is right here.
Just wondering, but what have you accomplished during this pandemic? Trent Miner, a goaltender with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, has been studying and working towards a private pilot’s licence. “I always wanted to do this,” Miner, 19, told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun, “but obviously didn’t have any time to get into it until this summer.” . . . Miner started the process by taking lessons at the Brandon Flight Centre in May. Now the only thing standing between him and his licence is a written exam. . . . These days, Miner is in camp with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. . . . Bergson’s story is right here.
Here’s a snippet of the Tuesday morning post from Jack Finarelli (aka The Sports Curmudgeon):
“If 2021 were destined to be a ‘normal sports year’ teams would be setting up facilities in Florida and Arizona for the onset of spring training about now. Instead, there are reports this morning that Arizona officials have sent a letter to MLB asking for a delay in the start of spring training there because of the high rate of COVID infections in Maricopa County. The report I read in the Washington Post said that the officials there do not have the authority to order such a delay, meaning this could evolve into a negotiation with MLB. Unfortunately, any negotiation with MLB will have to involve the MLBPA as well; history tells us that those two entities have difficulty agreeing on even basic things like Tuesdays always following Mondays.”
The latest 31 Thoughts from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman includes lots on the weekend deal between the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets, and also some interesting stuff with former Everett Silvertips D Shaun Heshka. It’s all right here.
With one member of the Vegas Golden Knights’ coaching staff having reportedly tested positive, the NHL team had to sideline all of its coaches, at least for Tuesday night’s game against the visiting St. Louis Blues. As a result, Kelly McCrimmon, the former owner/general manager/head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, made his NHL coaching debut. He is the Golden Knights’ general manager. . . . On the bench with McCrimmon were Manny Viveiros, a former WHL coach and player who is the head coach of the team’s AHL franchise, the Henderson Silver Knights; Jamie Heward, a former WHL player and coach who is an assistant coach with Henderson; and former NHL player Joel Ward, also an assistant in Henderson. . . . The Blues won the game, 5-4 in a shootout. The Golden Knights hit four posts in regulation, one in OT and another in the shootout. . . . F Brayden Schenn, who spent three seasons (2007-10) with McCrimmon’s Wheat Kings, scored the shootout winner. . . . The Golden Knights’ coaching staff comprises head coach Peter DeBoer; assistants Ryan Craig, Ryan McGill and Steve Spott; goaltending coach Mike Rosati; and video coach Tommy Cruz.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Unfortunately I’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to sit out of this years @XGames . Heartbroken beyond belief but feeling healthy which is most important. Sending good vibes to everyone out in Aspen! pic.twitter.com/5oIG7I61X6
CBC News — Anyone entering Manitoba, including people coming from Western Canada, will have to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday. . . . The travel restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans.
CBC News — Sask. extends public health orders as daily death toll reaches new high. The measures will remain in effect until Feb. 19. They were set to expire on Jan. 29.
CBC News — Saskatchewan saw its deadliest day of the pandemic, with a record-high 14 fatalities reported on Tuesday. The previous record came on Dec. 21, when 13 people died after being diagnosed with the virus. The province has now reported 268 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic came to the province. Of those, 115 deaths have happened in 2021.
If you’re wondering how the NCAA men’s basketball season is going, check out this piece right here by Ryan Young of yahoo!sports.
The New York Times — The coronavirus death toll in Britain surpassed 100,000 on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he accepted responsibility as fatality rates continue to soar. “I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost,” he said.
AFP News Agency, Tuesday, 1:39 p.m. PT — Global coronavirus cases pass 100 million mark, AFP tally shows.
Ron Johnson, who got into five games with the Montreal Expos in 1984, has died in Tennessee from complications related to COVID-19. He was 64. Johnson spent 25 seasons as a minor league manager, most recently with the Triple-A Norfolk Admirals, who are affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.
Sekou Smith, who worked as an analyst for NBA TV, died Tuesday after contracting COVID-19. He was 48.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: The ECHL is expected to announce today (Wednesday) that it will have a franchise in Savannah, Ga., in time for the 2022-23 season. The team will play out of the Savannah Arena, a facility that is under construction.
Effective 10 pm tonight, no social gatherings (i.e. no visits with friends indoors) allowed in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal until Nov. 23. All spin classes, dance, yoga, fitness classes suspended for two weeks. Meanwhile, 567 new #COVID19 cases today (411 in Fraser).
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.”
Today’s game against @Canes_M15AAA has been cancelled because of a positive COVID test in Lethbridge!
Wishing the best to the player and the family in a healthy recovery!
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:
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.
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.”
Jared Jacobson (quote continued) "We have great hockey ops staff in Darren Ritchie and Dave Lowry and all the coaches and scouting staff.” 2/2
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.
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.
If you haven’t seen this already, here’s a piece I wrote on McCrimmon for The Coaches Site five years ago . . .
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 . . .
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 Guillain–Barré 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.
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.
David Ayres is signing autographs in the concourse before the Hurricanes game. The line is long. The first person in line? A season-ticket holder who is also a kidney donor. pic.twitter.com/j0Vsxm8iji
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.
Did you know that our Athletic Performance Advisor/Men’s soccer assistant coach Peter Soberlak is also a musician? 🎶 🎸 🎵 https://t.co/TqwJS155AR
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.
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.
No one is very eager to hear it, but I've been saying for years this is why fighting and eventually open ice hitting will be outlawed in the junior game. The insurance costs will price them out of hockey. For better or worse, the sport will have to move in a new direction. https://t.co/PIixzQhPC0
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.”
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.”
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!
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.
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.”
This was the apex of my WHL viewing experience. WHL first round playoffs best-of-nine. I road tripped to Seattle to see this game. Game five, with Seattle up 7-0. I miss this league and it’s never coming back… seriously count the goals and look at all the data here. @gdrinnanpic.twitter.com/VBFPqAKrez
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?
How long until @realDonaldTrump fires White House cooks and replaces them with Burger King and Ronald McDonald?
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.
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 . . .
I’ve lost a couple of interviews recently with the latest ridiculous OS on my iPhone, so it’s back to the future for this grumpy old man. Check out this magnificent machine. (If you don’t recognize it or what it does, call your grandparents. You should anyway.) pic.twitter.com/nO87cRDW7O
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.
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.”
To all the coaches out there telling young athletes & parents to only focus on one sport, you are one of the biggest problems within youth sports. Play multiple sports until you can’t anymore.
Evaluators and recruiters at the college and pro levels LOVE multi-sport athletes!!!
Very scary situation tonight in the WHL as Tri-City's Aaron Hyman checked Spokane's Cordel Larson into the boards and Larson was stretchered off the ice. Spokane issued a statement that he is stable and has full use of his extremities. Hyman was given a major and GM pic.twitter.com/QOnfp3MYjf
F Cordel Larson of the Spokane Chiefs, who left a Saturday night game on a stretcher and was 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.”
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 game ended in a 2-2 tie, the first ever outdoor goal went to Connor Flemming midway through the second, followed shortly by Bott. We didnt play overtime due to deteriorating ice conditions, but we had a for-fun shootout that Ochitwa scored in for the win! #MMLWinterClassic
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.
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 and 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 Prince 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 the 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 Winterhawks 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 fifthappearance — 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.
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.
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, 12 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 the 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.
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.