Started about 45 minutes ago. 42 km mark, West Pavillion. Shot is from in town. #Lillooet – it’s 45 degrees (113f) and things are unbelievably dry. This is terrifying. We’ve been on evacuation alert a few times, evacuated once, and seeing this is devastating. #forestfirepic.twitter.com/mW4RJC5zc8
At 7:30 p.m., it was 43C in Kamloops. By 8:35, the temperature had retreated to 39C. We had hit our high at 5 p.m. — 46.4C. Hey, Jack, that’s 115.5F.
Environment Canada is calling for a high of 43C on Wednesday.
The overnight low was 24.6C at 5 a.m. You can’t even open windows and catch a fresh breeze. Our skylights are covered. The wall-to-wall windows on the east side of our kitchen are covered by vertical blinds with sheets over top of them. And still the A/C can’t keep up.
I should mention, too, that the South Thompson region, which includes Kamloops, is under a severe thunderstorm warning with the “potential for severe thunderstorms with very strong wind gusts, intense lightning and brief bursts of heavy rain.”
Did I mention there could be intense lightning?
Because the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has issued a bulletin calling for smoky skies in the South Thompson region.
“The region is being impacted or is likely to be impacted by wildfire smoke over the next 24-48 hours,” reads a statement that was issued Tuesday at 2:49 p.m.
Yes, wildfire season also is upon us with a vengeance. As of Tuesday evening, there are two huge blazes, one of them more than 3,700 hectares, located to the west of us.
The last thing we need at this point in time is lightning.
In what used to be normal times, we might see 40C for a day or two in July, and the fire season didn’t really get roaring until August. Now we’ve got everything at once.
And if you haven’t heard there have been have been dozens of heat-related deaths in the Lower Mainland, and you can bet that the number will rise province-wide over the next few days.
The intense heat has sped up the snowmelt in some areas so there are flood concerns.
It seems that the only thing missing right now are the locusts. But, then, the murder hornets are said to be on their way.
As a reminder that the pandemic isn’t completely behind us, Baseball Manitoba announced Tuesday that it has cancelled all of its 2021 provincial championships. . . . From a news release: “The decision was made with the safety and development of our members as the top priority. Provincial championships create environments with large gatherings with people from across the province. Also, by cancelling provincial championships, we believe that there is more opportunity for a longer season for more players, as they compete late into summer within their regions.”
On 9/2/20, Brent wrote, "I've never taken a flu shot and I'll never take a COVID shot."
On 5/3/21: "Zinc & vitamin D regiment > Moderna and Pfizer"
On 6/23/21: "This is Brent's daughter… dad died of COVID…PLEASE save your families this heartache. Go get your shot."
If anyone wants it, the title of the hardest-working person in the WHL is up for grabs for the first time in years. That’s because Rick Dillabough no longer is employed by the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun has more on Dillabough and his decision to walk away right here, and it’s great to see former owner Kelly McCrimmon singing the praises of his long-time employee and friend.
ICYMI, Bruce Springsteen was back on Broadway on Saturday night, and Peter Marks, the Washington Post’s theatre critic, was there for the district’s first full-length performance in 15 months. He wasn’t alone.
As Marks wrote, “His curation includes one of the key requirements for admission: a vaccination card. ‘It’s great,’ he remarks. ‘Unmasked, sitting next to each other.’ Bizarrely, theatergoers were greeted outside the St. James by a cadre of screaming, placard-waving anti-vaccination protesters, who feel aggrieved by the fact that the government wants to save their lives. Their rage is a bewildering counterpoint to the joy inside the theater at the freedoms the vaccines have given back to us. The demonstration is as out-of-touch as ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ feels in-touch.”
Dizzy Trout born OTD in 1915. First time he faced Ted Williams he struck Ted out & went into @RedSox clubhouse & asked Ted to autograph the ball! Next time Williams belted a long HR & yelled, " Get that ball & I'll autograph it too! @sigg20@AndyFurmanFSR
The SJHL’s board of governors and Bill Chow, the league’s commissioner, have agreed on a contract extension that will run through the 2022-23 season. Chow is preparing for his 11th season as commissioner. . . . Chow, who spent 10 seasons scouting for the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, was announced as SJHL president in May 2011. That was after he had retired from the Prince Albert Police Service, where he had spent almost 30 years. . . . With the SJHL, Chow took over from Laury Ryan, who had been in place for eight years.
The AJHL held its AGM on Saturday and decided on a 60-game regular season that will have each of the 16 teams playing 16 interlocking games. The addition of the expansion Blackfalds Bulldogs brings the roster to 16 teams. . . . Interestingly, the AJHL will experiment in its exhibition season with an overtime format that will end with teams playing 1-on-1. After each exhibition game, teams will play a six-minute OT period, starting with 3-on-3. At the first whistle after the four-minute mark, it will shift to 2-on-2. And it’ll be 1-on-1 at the first whistle after the two-minute mark. If there aren’t any goals, a “best-of-three” shootout will be held. . . . The AJHL’s complete news release is right here.
Peter Anholt, the general manager of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, has been named to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence management group. Anholt will oversee the U-18 program. . . . Philippe Boucher, the general manager of the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs, will guide the U-17 program, with James Boyd, the general manager of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, doing the same for the U-20s. . . . There is a complete news release right here.
USA Hockey has invited 44 players to the 2021 World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich., July 24-31. None of the 44 players were on a WHL team roster in 2020-21. . . . The Showcase will feature three teams this time around, with Finland and Sweden also to appear. The event is used to evaluate players who are eligible for the 2022 IIHF World junior championship that is scheduled for Edmonton and Red Deer, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. . . . USA Hockey’s camp roster is right here.
The Edmonton Oil Kings announced Tuesday that Czech D Simon Kubicek has committed to play for them in 2021-22. Kubicek, who will turn 20 on Dec. 19, has played 113 regular-season WHL games, all with the Seattle Thunderbirds, putting up 16 goals and 39 assists. . . . On Jan. 25, the Oil Kings acquired Kubicek from Seattle for F Vladimir Alistrov, 20, of Belarus. The teams also swapped undisclosed conditional picks in the WHL’s 2023 prospects draft. . . . Alistrov spent 2020-21 with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL. . . . Kubicek played at home in 2020-21, with Motor Ceske Budejovice of the Czech ELH. He also had a goal and an assist in four games at the IIHF World Junior Championship. . . . Kubicek is the lone import on the Oil Kings’ roster, with the CHL import draft scheduled for today (Wednesday).
As a 20 year old with the Moncton Wildcats @dscdejong3 set a high standard for community involvement using his platform to raise awareness and save lives. Tristan constantly took action by donating blood, joining the stem cell registry..(cont’d) pic.twitter.com/sJT6hUTgSC
JUST NOTES: The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves have hired Kyle Schneider, 22, as their new assistant coach. Schneider, who played for the Ice Wolves as recently as 2019-20, takes over from Gaelan Patterson, now the head coach of the junior B Port Alberni Bombers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. . . . The USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints have signed Greg Brown as their head coach. He takes over from Oliver David, who now is an assistant coach with EHC Biel of the Swiss National League. Brown, 53, spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s New York Rangers. . . . The BCHL’s Salmon Arm SilverBacks have signed Tyler Shattock, their assistant GM and head coach, to a two-year extension. Shattock, 31, took over as head coach in the middle of the 2019-20 season. From Salmon Arm, he has been with the team since signing on as an assistant coach in October 2018. . . . Simon Ferguson now is the general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. He has signed a three-year deal that runs through June 2024. Ferguson took over as interim head coach in January 2020, not long after the franchise changed hands. The interim part of his title was dropped in March 2020. His staff includes assistant coach Ayrton Nikkel, Josh Gorges, assistant coach and player development director, goaltending coach Chad Carter and athletic therapist Michael Bois.
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
When you spend most of a rainy Sunday and a Monday evening watching the NFL on TV, you realize that you really have forgotten how bad a lot of commercials are. I’m pointing a finger at you, Subway.
On the subject of the NFL, do we write off the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers without quarterbacks Drew Brees (thumb) and Ben Roethlisberger (elbow), respectively? . . . And what of the New York Jets without Sam Darnold (mononucleosis) and Trevor Siemian (ankle), and the Jacksonville Jaguars without Nick Foles (shoulder)? . . . Then there’s the Carolina Panthers, who have Cam Newton (foot), and we won’t even get into Oliver Luck who walked away from the Indianapolis Colts and football before the season began.
Mike Reilly of the B.C. Lions is the only one of the nine quarterbacks who were starters to begin the CFL season not to have been injured to this point. Might the NFL be headed for the same kind of season in terms of injuries to quarterbacks?
On a hot summer day in 1971, nothing beat riding my bike to 7-11 and getting a slurpee in one of these baseball cups. I drank so many slurpees, I collected most of them. pic.twitter.com/YVNuJB1HWs
Two questions from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “1. Has there ever been a more fitting NFL team to tank than one called the Dolphins? . . . 2. Is White Sox rookie pitcher Dylan Cease destined to become the team’s stopper?”
The Lethbridge Hurricanes, one of the WHL’s four community-owned teams, held their AGM on Monday night and reported a profit of $282,168 for the 2018-19 season. . . . Meanwhile, if you’re wondering how much a WHL championship is worth to a community-owned team playing in a smallish arena, well, the Prince Albert Raiders told their shareholders on Tuesday night that they made $633,314 last season. That comes a year after the Swift Current Broncos reported a profit of $561,500 in 2017-18, their championship season.
You cannot over-estimate the job done in Lethbridge by general manager Peter Anholt and Terry Huisman, the GM of business operations. Remember that this is a franchise that WHL commish Ron Robison recommended be sold to private interests. “It’s not to say that this community organization can’t get things turned around,” Robison said in May 2015. “But we think, when you look at the franchise moving forward, that private interests would be in the best interest of the club.” . . . Not enough shareholders listened, Anholt rode in on his white horse, and the rest, as they say, is history. . . . It’s just too bad that the WHL’s board of governors didn’t see fit to put the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament in Lethbridge instead of Kelowna because the Hurricanes and their fans deserve it.
Have been out and about a bit over the past couple of days. Have decided that I will vote for any candidate who promises to ban all of those gawdawful election signs.
By now, chances are that you have seen that TV commercial featuring the A&W guy at Mosaic Stadium in Regina. It seems that the commercial, which is all about the Beyond Meat Burger, has caused some controversy on the flatlands. . . . There is more right here from 3DownNation, while Adrienne Ivey, a Saskatchewan rancher, has her say right here. . . . And now the Roughriders, like QB Cody Fajardo evading pass-rushers, are scrambling to distance themselves from all of it. The Regina Leader-Post has more on that right here.
Baseball, as we all know, is a game of numbers and statistics, moreso than any of the other major sports. But every once in a while something comes along that defies belief. . . . For example: Manager Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants has managed in the bigs from 1995-2019. On the morning of Sept. 10, his lifetime record was 1995-2019.
Sheesh, it must be boring to be a fan of the New England Patriots. Two weeks in and they’re 2-0, having outscored the opposition, 86-3. And in their next game, on Sunday, they get to beat up on the — wait for it! — visiting New York Jets.
Peter Anholt says his coaching days are behind him and that his regular-season victory total of 466 can be “written in stone for good.”
That means that the Lethbridge general manager won’t be behind the bench on Saturday when the Hurricanes entertain the Kamloops Blazers.
Nor was he there on Wednesday when the Hurricanes dumped the visiting Kelowna Rockets, 5-1.
Instead, with head coach Brent Kisio away, assistant coach Jeff Hansen is in charge; in fact, he recorded his first head-coaching victory on Wednesday. He’ll be helped by assistant coach Josh MacNevin, video coach Andrew Doty and Matt Anholt, the skills and development coach.
Kisio is an assistant coach with Canada’s national junior team and won’t be back with the Hurricanes until early January by which time he could miss as many as nine games.
Anholt last coached two years ago when he took over while Kisio was at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. The Hurricanes went 2-2-1, allowing Anholt to get to 466 regular-season victories.
There had been speculation that Anholt would take over the coaching reins with Kisio away this time, too. However, Anholt told Taking Note on Thursday that “the days of me coaching are long gone.”
Anholt, who has coached the Prince Albert Raiders, Seattle Thunderbirds, Red Deer Rebels, Rockets and Hurricanes, is tied for 10th on the list of regular-season victories. He and Jack Shupe, who coach the Medicine Hat Tigers and Victoria Cougars, each has 466 regular-season victories.
On Wednesday night, F Andrew Fyten scored two goals to lead the Swift Current Broncos to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Regina Pats.
On Thursday morning, he was rewarded by being dealt to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
In return, the Broncos received a conditional fifth-round selection in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft.
Fyten, 20, is from Sundre, Alta. He had missed two games before returning Wednesday and scoring the Broncos’ first two goals as they erased 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat the Pats.
Fyten becomes the third 20-year-old on Edmonton’s roster, joining F Quinn Benjafield and F Vince Loschiavo.
This season, Fyten has eight goals and nine assists in 17 games. In 211 career regular-season games, he has 24 goals and 34 assists.
Andrew Peard, the radio voice of the Oil Kings, pointed out via Twitter (@AndrewPeard) that Fyten’s biggest asset may be in the faceoff circle. “He’s above 50% on faceoffs and has taken 656 draws this season. As a team, the Oil Kings have struggled in the circle, with a winning percentage of 46.9.”
Fyten was a fifth-round selection by the Everett Silvertips in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. However, he never got into a game with the Silvertips before they dealt him to the Calgary Hitmen on May 7, 2015, getting back a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft.
Fyten played in 155 games with the Hitmen, scoring 14 goals and adding 25 assists, before being traded to Swift Current on Jan. 9 for D Ethan Martini, who is from Trail, B.C., and a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 bantam draft. Martini, 18, began the season with the USHL’s Central Illinois Flying Aces, and now is with the BCHL’s Powell River Kings.
Fyten had two goals and four assists in 25 playoff games last spring as the Broncos won the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
The Oil Kings are at home to Calgary on Saturday.
Fyten’s departure leaves the Broncos with two 20s — F Tanner Nagel and D Matthew Stanley. They go home-and-home with the Prince Albert Raiders this weekend, meeting tonight in Swift Current and Saturday up north.
With the WHL heading into the Christmas break after Sunday games, don’t forget that there also will be a trade moratorium in place. There won’t be any trades announced between Saturday at 12:01 a.m., and Dec. 27 at 12:01 a.m.
COUNTDOWN TO DEADLINE
(WHL trade deadline: Jan. 10, 3 p.m. MT)
No. of trades: 1.
Bantam draft picks: 0.
Conditional draft picks: 1.
Total deals (since Nov. 26):
No. of trades: 13.
Bantam draft picks: 21.
Conditional draft picks: 5.
(Note: On Nov. 30, Kelowna traded F Jack Cowell, 19, to Kootenay for a third-round selection in the 2020 bantam draft. Cowell chose not to report and the deal was voided, so isn’t included in these totals.)
A Celebration of Life will be held for Ron Gunville on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Ches Leach Room at the Art Hauser Centre.
Flower arrangements will be handled by Grays Funeral Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Ron’s name to KidSport at https://t.co/4VfbjZNHWu
The Calgary Hitmen have added G Matt Armitage, 19, to their roster. He had been with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. . . . Armitage was to have been added by the Hitmen a couple of weeks ago, when G Carl Stankowski (ankle) went down. However, Armitage was injured in a game, so Calgary brought in G Brayden Peters instead. . . . Peters has been returned to the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . The Hitmen will go with Jack McNaughton, a 17-year-old freshman who has been Stankowski’s caddy, and Armitage as they play three games this weekend. . . . Stankowski is expected to be out at least another six weeks.
The Hitmen also revealed on Thursday that F Tye Carriere “is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.” A 17-year-old freshman from Red Deer, Carrier has three goals and one assist in 18 games.
The Hitmen have three games scheduled this weekend. They are at home to the Kelowna Rockets tonight and then will in Edmonton on Saturday afternoon before returning home to face the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon.
The Brandon Wheat Kings have added F Nolan Ritchie, 16, to their roster for the second time this season. He has 22 goals and 28 assists in 24 games with the midget AAA Wheat Kings. . . . A third-round pick in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft, Ritchie made his WHL debut on Nov. 28 in a 5-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . His father, Darren, is a former Wheat Kings star who now is the organization’s director of scouting. . . . The Wheat Kings are to play in Saskatoon tonight and then entertain the Blades on Saturday night.
Later Thursday, the Wheat Kings announced that they have signed D Jack Zayat, 16, to a WHL contract. He is expected to be in the lineup tonight and again on Saturday. . . . Zayat was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. . . . From Calgary, he has two goals and 14 assists in 20 games with the midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes. He also has one assists in four games with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers.
The Swift Current Broncos have signed F Dawson Springer, 16, to a WHL contract. Springer, from Yorkton, Sask., was a list player with the Everett Silvertips, who was dealt to the Broncos on Dec. 3, along with a fourth-round pick in the 2020 bantam draft, for F Max Patterson, 19. . . . Springer has 19 goals and nine assists in 26 games with the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos. . . . He is expected to play for the Broncos on Saturday when they meet the Raiders in Prince Albert. After that game, he will be returned to the Mintos.
The CHL has announced rosters for the 2019 Top Prospects Game and there are 16 WHLers among the 40 players. The game, which features draft-eligible CHL players, is scheduled to be played in Red Deer on Jan. 23. . . . Those rosters are right here.
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This morning, the ICE presented Off-ice Official Dick Palmiere a team signed jersey.
Back in October, a fire at Dick's house caused significant damage. Thankfully, there were no injuries. Now, Dick, along with his wife and pets are renting a house in Cranbrook. pic.twitter.com/sa8HGIfIGC
The WHL’s board of governors will gather in Calgary on Wednesday and one of the things on the agenda will be to hear bids from three teams/cities wanting to play host to the 2020 Memorial Cup.
The Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Lethbridge Hurricanes will make their presentations in that order.
Each team will be allotted 15 minutes — five to show a video and 10 for a presentation — after which governors will have 15 minutes to ask questions.
Some thoughts as Taking Note sees it . . .
KELOWNA — The Rockets last played host to the four-team tournament in 2004 and they put on a tremendous show, icing the cake by winning the whole thing. . . . Who wouldn’t want to spend 10 days in May in Kelowna? . . . Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors. He is the most-powerful person in the WHL and don’t discount that as a factor. . . . Including standing room, Prospera Place, which opened in 1999, has room for 6,286 fans. . . . The Rockets are off to a slow start (1-4-0) but history shows that they are more likely to be a contender than a pretender come next season. . . . Odds: 1-1.
LETHBRIDGE — Lethbridge has never been home to the Memorial Cup tournament. . . . The Hurricanes, under general manager Peter Anholt and Terry Huisman, the general manager of business operations, have made a remarkable turnaround. After the 2014-15 season, the Hurricanes had missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and lost more than $1.25 million. Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was urging shareholders to sell the franchise to private interests. Today, the Hurricanes have reached two straight Eastern Conference finals and shown more than $1 million in profits over those two seasons. . . . On the ice, the future looks bright, led by forwards Dylan Cozens and Logan Barlage, two of the WHL’s best young players. . . . The ENMAX Centre, which opened in 1974 but has undergone recent upgrades, has a capacity of 5,479. . . . Odds: 2-1.
KAMLOOPS — The Blazers played host to the 1995 tournament, which they won, giving them three Memorial Cup titles in four years. The 2020 tournament will be the 25th anniversary of the third one. . . . Tom Gaglardi and Co. are into their 11th season as the franchise’s owners and have yet to show they can build a winner. That won’t help their cause with the BoG. Neither will the ham-handed fashion in which the retirement/dismissal of Don Hay was handled in May. . . . The Blazers’ new braintrust — headed up by GM Matt Bardsley and head coach Serge Lajoie — hasn’t had time to prove itself. . . . Kamloops, the Tournament Capital of Canada, has a wonderful history of playing host to events like the Brier, the Canada Games and the IIHF World Women’s Championship, something that should hold the bid in good stead. . . . The Sandman Centre had 5,464 seats before some were removed in order to put loge seating in the upper deck on one side. That new seating, in itself, will be an attraction. Unfortunately, the Sandman Centre doesn’t include an on-site restaurant like Prospera Place and the ENMAX Centre. . . . Odds: 5-1.
THE INTANGIBLE — At the end of the day, money talks . . . and that could be the case again on Wednesday in Calgary. When the WHL’s board of governors votes on a host team/city for the 2020 Memorial Cup, it could easily decide to go with the bid that includes the highest guaranteed profit — teams all get a cut of the profit. If it comes to that, Kamloops may have an edge because the Gaglardi family has more chips than the Kelowna or Lethbridge owners. . . . Earlier this year, Canadian Business estimated the net worth of the Gaglardi family, through Northland Properties, at $3.92 billion, up 10.4 per cent from 2017. . . . Tom Gaglardi owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and is the majority owner of the Blazers. Might he be interested in attempting to buy the hosting rights for the 2020 Memorial Cup?
The Medicine Hat Tigers have added two 20-year-olds to their roster after learning Monday that they will be getting back defencemen Dylan MacPherson and Linus Nassen. Both players had been in camp with the NHL’s Florida Panthers before being assigned to the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds. . . . MacPherson, from Redcliff, Alta., has played two seasons with the Tigers, putting up four goals and 18 assists in 124 regular-season games. . . . Nassen, from Sweden, was a third-round pick by the Panthers in the NHL’s 2016 draft. Last season, his first in the WHL, had had one goal and 25 assists in 44 games. . . . With those two in town, the Tigers have four 20-year-olds on their roster, the other two being F Ryan Jevne and D Dalton Gally. . . . As an import, Nassen would be a two-spotter should the Tigers keep him. His arrival won’t affect the Tigers’ import situation as freshmen G Mads Sogaard is their only other European player.
The Vancouver Giants, having lost D Bailey Dhaliwal to a shoulder injury and D Matt Barberis and D Joel Sexsmith to undisclosed injuries, have acquired D Ty Ettinger from the Brandon Wheat Kings for a seventh-round selection in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reports that Dhaliwal, 19, who has a history of shoulder problems, could be out for six weeks. . . . Ettinger, 18, is from Ardrossan, Alta. He was dropped from Brandon’s roster late last week. The Wheat Kings selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 bantam draft. . . . Last season, as a freshman, he had two goals and five assists in 45 games with Brandon. This season, he was pointless in one game. . . . As Ewen tweeted: “You’d think the Giants would have good intel on Ettinger, since scouting director Daryl Anning is the father of Wheat Kings head coach David Anning.” . . . Ettinger skated with the Giants on Monday afternoon and could make his debut with Vancouver on Wednesday against the Rockets in Kelowna.
NEWS: '98 F Brad Goethals has decided to pursue other hockey opportunities. The Blades would like to thank Brad for his contributions to our organization and community and wish him the best in his future endeavours.
With F Brad Goethals, 20, having left the Saskatoon Blades of his own accord, the club has room for a 20-year-old to join F Max Gerlach and D Dawson Davidson. . . . Goethals’ departure also leaves the Blades with 13 forwards, when they might prefer to carry 14. . . . Goethals was a prolific scorer during two seasons with the midget AAA Eastman Selects (129 points, including 73 goals, in 83 games), but wasn’t able to replicate that in the WHL. He had three goals and three assists in 23 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17, and followed that up with 15 goals and 17 assists in 69 games with the Blades last season. . . . This season, he had one goal in three games with Saskatoon.
Stan Butler wasn’t behind the bench when the North Bay Battalion dropped a 7-5 OHL decision to the host Oshawa Generals on Sunday night. According to the North Bay Nugget, Butler, the Battalion’s director of hockey operations and head coach since 1998-99, said before the game that he plans to take time “to try to get some things sorted out.” Butler, 62, apparently met with Oshawa’s club doctor before deciding not to go behind the bench on Sunday. . . . Butler was behind the bench on Saturday night for a 6-1 loss to the Niagara IceDogs in St. Catharines. . . . In Butler’s absence, assistant coaches Scott Wray and Adam Dennis ran the bench. . . . Butler is the fourth-winningest head coaching OHL history, his 703 victories trailing Brian Kilrea (1,194), Bert Templeton (907) and Dale Hunter (728). . . . Butler spent one season (1996-97) in the WHL, as the head coach of the Prince George Cougars.
The Prince Albert Raiders have dropped F Nikita Krivokrasov, who will turn 18 on Dec. 23, from their roster. From Westminster, Colo., he is the son of former NHLer Sergei Krivokrasov. . . . Nikita was pointless in two games with the Raiders in 2016-17, and had three goals in 34 games last season. . . . He didn’t dress for any of the Raiders’ first five games the season.
The Regina Pats are down to two goaltenders after dropping Matthew Pesenti, 17, from their roster. He is expected to return for a third season with the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers. . . . The Pats now are left with two 18-year-old goaltenders — returnee Max Paddock and Dean McNabb, who was acquired from the Victoria Royals on Sept. 24. . . . Paddock has started all four games as the Pats have started 0-4-0. McNabb has gotten into one game since joining Regina.
A pair of WHLers drew three-game suspensions on Monday. . . . F Tristen Nielsen of the Calgary Hitmen was suspended after taking a boarding major and game misconduct during a game against the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Sunday. . . . F Cade McNelly was disciplined after becoming involved in what the WHL refers to as a “one-man fight” during a Saturday night game against the Winterhawks in Portland.
Hey, Lane Lambert and Ross Mahoney . . . I can see you smiling all the way from Kamloops. Congratulations!
The Calgary Flames revealed Monday that D Juusu Valimaki, 19, will open the NHL season on their roster. Valimaki, from Finland, will turn 20 on Oct. 6. The Flames selected him in the first round, 16th overall, of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . Valimaki played the past three seasons with the Tri-City Americans. Last season, he had 14 goals and 31 assists in 43 games. In 159 career regular-season games, he recorded 40 goals and 98 assists. . . . The Flames also have F Dillon Dube, 20, on their roster. Dube, from Golden, B.C., was a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft. He spent the past four seasons with the Kelowna Rockets, putting up 232 points, including 101 goals, in 203 regular-season games. Last season, he finished with 38 goals and 46 assists in 43 games. . . .
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If you are a WHL fan and are on Twitter, you should be following Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow). He regularly tweets interesting notes and stats involving WHL teams and players, such as this one from Sunday night:
#WHL RD/CGY: @Rebelshockey make it a sweep of the weekend winning in overtime on a goal by Oleg Zaytsev. Zaytsev has scored twice in the WHL, once shorthanded, once in overtime. First designated rookie with OT GWG since Michael Spacek, February 6, 2016.
The "keep your head up" crowd will piss and moan, but Tom WIlson deserves a double-digit suspension from DOPS as a multiple repeat offender. If you think what Wilson did is a "hockey hit," you're about 10 years out of date. We get one brain. Should be last chance for Wilson.
No, I’m not a fan of MLB’s players’ weekend in which players are outfitted in (in some cases) horrid-looking uniforms and allowed to put nicknames on the namebars. But Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Boxberger gets full marks for having fun with it.
“Semi-retired Chris Berman could return to ESPN in a reduced role on ‘SportsCenter’ and NFL-related programming, the New York Post reported,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “In other words, Berman might be . . . nah, too easy.”
RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com had this take: “Chris Berman reportedly may return to ESPN, but only in a reduced role. So he . . . won’t . . . go . . . all . . . the . . . way!”
Perry, again: “Corey Bellemore, winner of this year’s Beer Mile World Classic in Vancouver, B.C., was disqualified when race officials ruled he didn’t consume enough beer during the race’s four mandatory brew stops. It’s believed to be the first time in sports history in which a runner was stripped of his title for failing to fail a drug test.”
It is the two-year anniversary of when a man bit off the finger of the bartender in a San Francisco bar. Police have no culprit and as to who did it, the bartender is still stumped.
One more from Currie: “A golfer reportedly had a finger bitten off at the knuckle in a fight at a Massachusetts club. You can read about it in Golf Digits — er — Digest.”
I can agree with Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on these items from his Sunday column: “Is there anything more ridiculous than the French Open banning Serena Williams’ tennis outfit? . . . Might be in the minority on this, but I wouldn’t pay 10 cents to watch Tiger Woods play Phil Mickelson head-to-head on pay-per-view.”
I have a feeling Simmons would agree with me when I say that there is something wrong about junior hockey teams playing games in August.
After Puerto Rico beat Canada, 9-4, eliminating the team from Whalley, B.C., at the Little League World Series, Vancouver comedian Torben Rolfsen noted: “Donald Trump said, ‘See, I told you Puerto Rico had power.’ ”
The Reds are 1-17 in Homer Bailey’s starts. This matches the record of the infamous Syndicate Ball 1899 Cleveland Spiders, 1-17 in Frank Bates’ 1st 18 starts. Bates, who was given 2.95 Run Support, lost start #19 and was last known to be alive a hundred years ago…in Cincinnati pic.twitter.com/VwVVJE6wLf
After Carmelo Anthony signed a one-year contract with the Houston Rockets, Janice Hough (aka The Left Coast Sports Babe) wrote: “This is great news for the Warriors, Lakers and Spurs.”
One more from Hough, who is at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Due to rule technicalities, Robinson Cano, returning from a 90-game PED suspension, is ineligible for any playoff games, while Roberto Osuna, returning from a 75-game domestic violence suspension, is eligible. If Cano had only beaten his girlfriend instead of taking PEDs he could play in the postseason. Is this really how MLB wants to compete with the NFL?”
After Caesar’s Palace Sports Book in Vegas revealed that it had taken more bets on the Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North than the other three division teams combined, Hough commented: “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Over the past four-plus years, former NBA star Kobe Bryant has invested US$6 million in BodyArmor, the producer of a sports drink. Sources have told ESPN that Bryant’s investment now is worth about US$200 million. . . . And how are your investments doing these days?
Receiver Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns has missed 56 of 96 NFL games, mainly due to drug-related suspensions. As old friend Jack Finarelli, who can be found at SportsCurmudgeon.com, noted: “To say that Gordon has had an ‘unorthodox career’ to date would be akin to saying that Frank Sinatra ‘could sing a little.’ ”
I will assume that you are familiar with the look on the face of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick prior to the postgame interview. Here’s Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle describing it: “The dude at your gym waiting impatiently for you to get your wimpy ass off the bench-press machine.”
Noticed a couple names with new organizations while doing tonight's rosters:
'99 F Arjun Atwal (45GP with Saskatoon) is in P.G. camp '00 D Tyler Lowe (1GP with Prince Albert last year) is in LTH camp '99 D Landon Fuller (16 GP with Tri-City over 3 years) is in LTH camp
It seems I got my minor midget and major midget Thompson Blazers hockey teams mixed up in this space on Saturday night. . . . The minor midget Blazers are a first-year team and will have Neil Pilon and Darryl Sydor on board as assistant coaches, alongside head coach Chris Murray, who is a former WHL/NHL skater. . . . Meanwhile, Carter Cochrane is the first-year head coach of the major midget Blazers. Mitchell Barker has returned as an assistant coach and is joined by James Friedel and Devin Gannon. . . . Apologies to all involved for the confusion.
2018 Training Camp concludes this afternoon w/ the Annual Black-White Game (4pm).
Admission is by donation for the CMHA in memory of Ethan Williams
The Moose Jaw Warriors played their annual Black-White game on Sunday at Mosaic Place to bring an end to their training camp. A tip of the fedora to the Warriors for keeping alive the memory of Ethan Brown.
If you aren’t aware of Ethan Williams, you should click right here.
Dorothy, my wife of 46 years, will celebrate the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk. If you would like to support her with a donation, you are able to do so right here.
F Tanner Eberle (Moose Jaw, 2010-15) signed a one-year contract with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite). Last season, with the Allen Americans (ECHL), he had two goals and an assist in 11 games. He also had 21 goals and 11 assists in 63 games with the Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL). He was second on Jacksonville in goals. . . .
D Harrison Ruopp (Prince Albert, 2009-13) signed a one-year contract with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). Last season, he had four goals and seven assists in 14 games with the Balgonie Bisons (Qu’Appelle Valley Senior). . . .
D Kendall McFaull (Moose Jaw, 2009-13) signed a one-year contract with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite). Last season, with the U of Saskatchewan (Canada West), he had four goals and five assists in 27 games. He was the team captain. . . . McFaull was named to Canada West’s second all-star team, and won Canada West’s Student-Athlete Community Service Award, and the Dr. Randy Gregg Award (U Sports Student-Athlete Community Service).
The Prince George Cougars introduced Mark Lamb as their new general manager on Tuesday morning. Lamb, 53, signed a four-year contract. He replaces Todd Harkins, whose contract wasn’t renewed after last season. Harkins had been the GM for four seasons. . . . Lamb, a native of Ponteix, Sask., spent seven seasons (2009-16) as the general manager and head coach of the Swift Current Broncos. . . . He left to join the NHL-Arizona Coyotes organization and spent 2016-17 as the head coach of the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners. However, he was dismissed after one season. . . . Lamb got into coaching as an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers in 2001-02, then spent six seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Stars. . . . Eric Brewer, one of the Cougars’ owners, was a defenceman with the Oilers when Lamb coached there. Cougars head coach Richard Matvichuk was a defenceman with Dallas when Lamb was on its coaching staff. . . . According to the Prince George Citizen, Matvichuk is starting the last season of a three-year contract as the Cougars’ head coach, while associate coach Steve O’Rourke has two seasons left on a deal. Assistant coach Shawn Chambers’ contract expired on May 31 and there has been no word as to whether he has been extended. Last week, the Cougars hired Taylor Dakers as the organization’s first full-time goaltending coach.
Peter Anholt, the general manager of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, held a news conference on Tuesday to talk about the Friday night incident that left three hockey players in a Calgary hospital.
F Ryan Vandervlis, 20, remains in a medically induced coma and in critical condition, although he has been taken off dialysis. F Jordy Bellerive and F Matt Alfaro also are in Calgary’s Foothills Health Centre.
Vandervlis and Bellerive play for the Hurricanes; in fact, Bellerive is the captain. Alfaro, who played in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice and the Hurricanes, just completed his first season with the U of Calgary Dinos.
The three were injured when something went wrong with a fire that was being lit at the home of former Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong near Calgary.
Anholt began by reading a prepared statement that included:
“Alfaro and Bellerive sustained burns to their upper bodies and are continuing to make progress and steps towards full recovery. Vandervlis sustained burns to the front of his body and has continued to be in a medically induced coma. He, too, has shown signs of progress having been taken off dialysis (Monday), which again is a real positive step.”
Anholt also continued to discredit earlier reports that claimed the incident occurred during a bachelor party in honour of Wong.
“It has been reported that the campfire occurred during a bachelor party, these reports are inaccurate and totally false,” Anholt’s statement read. “The campfire incident occurred at the family home of former WHL player Tyler Wong along with nine of his friends prior to a planned day of golf and camping.”
Later, Anholt told the news conference that Wong is preparing for his wedding.
“Well, Tyler Wong is getting married and this happened before the wedding, so I guess you can say whatever you like as far as pre-wedding is concerned,” Anholt said. “We’re talking about nine awesome kids, men, good friends, and they were getting prepared to play some golf the next day and go camping. That’s what it was, done.”
Aaron Mahoney of lethbridgenewsNOW has more right here.
Adam Deadmarsh will be back for a second season as an assistant coach with the Spokane Chiefs. Deadmarsh, 43, joined the Chiefs prior to last season and worked under head coach Dan Lambert. . . . Deadmarsh played 567 NHL games, split among the Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings. Deadmarsh won a Stanley Cup with the 1995-96 Avalanche. . . . He also worked as an assistant coach with Colorado (2009-12). . . . Before going on to a pro career, Deadmarsh played four seasons (1991-95) with the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks.
The Edmonton Oil Kings have placed G Josh Dechaine, who will turn 20 on Sept. 14, on waivers. The St. Albert, Alta., native got into 17 games with the Oil Kings in 2016-17 and 32 last season, when he was 12-14-5, 4.19, .867. . . . In 49 career regular-season games, he is 15-22-6, 4.26, .870.
The Seattle Thunderbirds have signed F Mekai Sanders, who was a ninth-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. Sanders, from Gig Harbor, Wash., played minor hockey with the Seattle Junior Hockey Association and Sno-King Hockey Association. . . . Last season, he played for the U-14 Detroit Compuware team, putting up six goals and 12 assists in 20 games.
The KamloopsBlazers have signed F Matthew Seminoff, who was a fifth-round pick in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From Coquitlam, B.C., he had 12 goals and 13 assists in 30 games with the Burnaby Winter Club Academy last season.
Dickson Liong’s writing used to end up on this blog, back in the days before he moved on to bigger and better things as The Sports Corporation’s director of communications. Now he has decided to leave TSC. . . . He writes about his decision right here.
Jesse Geleynse and Andy Eide, two members of the media who were in Kennewick, Wash., to cover a WHL game on Monday night, were injured in a car accident on their way back to the Seattle area early Tuesday morning.
Geleynse, who works for the Everett Herald, and Eide, from 710 ESPN Seattle, had driven to Kennewick to cover Game 6 of the WHL’s Western Conference final between the Tri-City Americans and Everett Silvertips.
On the return trip on Interstate 90, their car was behind a semi tractor-trailer when an elk got in the way.
KOMOnews.com reported: “A preliminary investigation found that the semi and the Mazda were both heading east on I-90 when the semi hit an elk that was standing on the freeway. The Mazda driver swerved to avoid the elk that had been struck, lost control, and the car rolled over onto its top in the median.”
Those in the car were taken to hospital in Ellensburg, Wash.
Eide told Taking Note late Tuesday afternoon that he was at home and resting.
Geleynse also is at home, nursings cuts, bruises and a concussion.
Three years have come and gone since Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, recommended that shareholders in the Lethbridge Hurricanes put a ‘For Sale’ sign on their franchise and sell to private owners.
“It’s not to say that this community organization can’t get things turned around,” Robison told media after speaking to shareholders on May 4, 2015. “But we think, when you look at the franchise moving forward, that private interests would be in the best interest of the club.”
At that point, the Hurricanes hadn’t been in the playoffs for six seasons and were somewhere around $1.25 million in debt.
And then along came Peter Anholt. He hitched his white horse to the rail at the edge of town and . . .
Anholt had stepped in as general manager and head coach in December 2014. After the season, he signed a three-year contract as general manager.
The shareholders voted not to sell, and, well, the rest is history.
In the past three seasons, the Hurricanes have played 22 home playoff games, including 10 in 2017 and nine this season when they lost a third-round series in six games to the heavily favoured Swift Current Broncos.
The Hurricanes now can afford to buy lunch for their banker, rather than using a line of credit to pay for it.
Keep in mind, too, that Hurricanes’ fans wear their sunglasses at night because the future is that bright. Their favourite team reached the Eastern Conference final even though Anholt turned into a seller at the January trade deadline.
The Hurricanes’ roster now includes three of the WHL’s top young players — F Logan Barlage, who was acquired from the Broncos, and F Dylan Cozens, both of them having completed their 16-year-old seasons, along with D Calen Addison, who turned 18 on April 11.
Yes, things are looking good in Lethbridge, so good, in fact, the prospective private owners need not bother venturing into city limits.
You are free to wonder if the Tri-City Americans are long for the Kennewick-Richland-Pasco area of Washington State.
The Americans drew an announced crowd of 3,033 fans to Game 6 of the WHL’s Western Conference final against the Everett Silvertips on Monday night. In seven home games in these playoffs, in what was their 30th season, the Americans’ average announced attendance was 3,053.
The Americans play in the 5,797-seat Toyota Center, which opened in 1988 and now is in need of upgrading.
However, the Kennewick Public Facilities District has asked voters three times for the OK to increase a sales tax to fund a project that would include, among other things, an upgrade for the hockey facility. Three times it has been rejected.
In November, with the latest referendum having been defeated, Bob Tory, the Americans’ general manager who owns a piece of the franchise, told the Tri-City Herald that the arena’s “infrastructure is certainly in trouble.”
According to Wendy Culverwell of the Herald, Tory said team expenses have doubled under current ownership while revenue has been flat.
“There comes a time when that doesn’t make sense any more,” Tory told Culverwell.
Culverwell wrote: “The Americans’ lease runs through 2020, but contains language that allows it to negotiate for a lower rent or even an early termination if it isn’t up to WHL standards.”
Tory, who has never cried wolf or threatened to relocate, also told Culverwell: “If you look around the WHL, our facility is not just the worst facility in the U.S. Division, but it’s probably at the very bottom of the league as far as the quality of the amenities.”
In the regular season, the Americans’ announced average attendance was 3,649, easily the lowest figure among the five U.S. Division teams. The Seattle Thunderbirds were the closest divisional opponent, at 4,950.
The Tri-Cities area of Washington State is home to around 300,000 people.
The MJHL-champion Steinbach Pistons got a goal and two assists from F Bradley Schoonbaert as they dumped the host Nipawin Hawks, the SJHL champs, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series for the ANAVET Cup.. . . Game 4 is scheduled for tonight (Wednesday) in Nipawin, with Game 5 there on Friday. . . . Last night, the Pistons held period leads of 1-0 and 4-0. . . . F Brandan Arnold had an assist on Nipawin’s goal. He has been in on all six of the Hawks’ scores in the series. . . . G Matthew Thiessen stopped 16 shots for Steinbach. . . . The winner of this series will move on to the Royal Bank Cup in Chilliwack, B.C., later this month.
The BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild is one victory away from a berth in the Royal Bank Cup, the junior A championship tournament that opens in Chilliwack, B.C., on May 12. . . . The Wild beat the host Spruce Grove Saints, the AJHL champions, 4-3 on Tuesday night to take a 3-0 lead in the Doyle Cup series. The Wild is trying to became the first American-based team to win the Doyle Cup. . . . They’ll play Game 4 in Spruce Grove tonight (Wednesday). . . . Last night, goals from F Nathan Iannone and D Cooper Zech gave the Wild a 3-1 lead after two periods. . . . F Sam Hesler upped it to 4-1 at 8:10 of the third period. . . . The Saints made it close as F Parker Seretsky and F Chase Olsen scored at 12:34 and 12:57, respectively. . . . G Austin Park earned the victory with 34 saves.
Tyler Kuntz is the new general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Powell River Kings. Kuntz, 39, spent this season as the assistant coach of the Daemyung Killer Whales in South Korea. Prior to that, he spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . . Kuntz takes over from Brock Sawyer, an assistant coach who took over as interim head coach when the Kings fired GM/head coach Kent Lewis on Jan. 29. . . .
The Spokane Chiefs have signed Chris Moulton, their assistant general manager, to a contract extension. The length of the deal wasn’t revealed. Moulton has been with the Chiefs since 2005, and has been the assistant GM since November 2016. . . .
D Mark Rubinchik, who turned 19 on March 21, won’t be back for a third season with the Saskatoon Blades. According to The MacBeth Report, Rubinchik, who is from Moscow, has signed a two-year, two-way contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Russia, KHL). . . . Rubinchik had 23 assists in 63 games as a freshman in 2016-17. This season, in 67 games, he recorded four goals and 19 assists. . . . The Blades didn’t make the playoffs this season. Rubinchik was their lone import player after the Jan. 10 trade deadline, when they moved Czech D Libor Hajek to the Regina Pats. . . .
F Brad Morrison, 21, who leads the WHL playoff scoring race, has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. Morrison, whose Lethbridge Hurricanes were eliminated from the playoffs on Monday night, was a fourth-round pick by the New York Rangers in the NHL’s 2015 draft but was never signed. . . . In 16 playoff games this spring, he put up 37 points, including 16 goals. He also leads all playoff scorers with 21 assists. . . . In 334 WHL regular-season games, split between the Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants and Lethbridge, Morrison had 263 points, including 112 goals.
G Juha Metsola (Lethbridge, 2007-09) signed a two-year contract with Salevat Yulaev Ufa (Russia, KHL). This season, in 52 games with Amur Khabarovsk (Russia, KHL), he was 28-17-6, 2.25, .923 with three shutouts and two assists. He twice was named the KHL’s goaltender of the week (Nov. 8 and Jan. 29). . . .
F Jan Eberle (Seattle, 2006-08) signed a one-year contract with Plzeň (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, with Olomouc (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had nine goals and 18 assists in 50 games. . . .
F Daniel Rákos (Swift Current, 2005-07) signed a “multi-year” contract with Hradec Králové (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had five goals and 15 assists in 47 games. . . .
D Michal Hlinka (Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, 2010-12) signed a one-year contract with Hradec Králové (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, he was pointless in 12 games with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), and had four goals and five assists in seven games while on loan to Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . .
F Marek Kalus (Spokane, Brandon, 2010-13) signed a one-year contract with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Havířov (Czech Republic, 1. Liga), he had 18 goals and 16 assists in 46 games. He led his team in goals and points. . . .
G Andrei Makarov (Saskatoon, 2011-13) was traded by Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk to Spartak Moscow (both Russia, KHL) for cash compensation. This season, in 12 games with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, he was 6-4-0, 2.11, .922 with one shutout. . . .
F Jakub Herman (Moose Jaw, 2009-10) signed a one-year contract with Zlin (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, with Olomouc (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had nine goals and 11 assists in 39 games. . . .
D Mark Rubinchik (Saskatoon, 2016-18) signed a two-year, two-way contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Russia, KHL). This season, he had four goals and 19 assists in 67 games with Saskatoon. . . .
F Filip Ahl (Regina, 2016-17) signed a one-year contract with Tingsryd (Sweden, Allsvenskan). This season, he had seven goals and one assist in five games with Örebro J20 (Sweden, J20 SuperElit), one assist in 15 games with Örebro (Sweden, SHL), and 11 goals and four assists in 29 games while on loan to Karlskoga (Sweden, Allsvenskan). . . .
F Nathan Burns (Vancouver, Saskatoon, Swift Current, 2009-14) signed a one-year contract extension with Halle (Germany, Oberliga). He had seven goals and 31 assists in 37 games, leading his club in assists and points. . . .
F Ladislav Ščurko (Seattle, Tri-City, 2004-07) signed a one-year contract extension with Detva (Slovakia, Extraliga). In 54 games, he had 17 goals and 11 assists. An alternate captain, he led the team in goals. . . .
F Andrej Kudrna (Vancouver, Red Deer, 2008-11) signed a one-year contract extension with Sparta Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga). He had 14 goals and 13 assists in 52 games. He led his team in goals.
F Brady Ramsay (Lethbridge, 2010-14) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with the Fife Flyers (Scotland, UK Elite). He started the season with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite), scoring one goal and adding four assists in 13 games. He was released by the Steelers on Dec. 5.
A LITTLE OF THIS . . .
It's with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of our owner Duncan Wray. A huge loss for the Wray family, the Vipers organization, Vernon and the hockey community.
The hockey community is in mourning today following the death of Duncan Wray, the longtime owner of the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Wray, who had owned the franchise since 1992, died suddenly Thursday morning, which happened to be his 68th birthday. . . . Besides owning the Vipers, Wray also was the chairman of the BCHL’s board of governors. . . . It was just on Saturday when the Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings played the final game in the history of Vernon’s Civic Arena. Prior to the game, Wray had, according to Roger Knox of the Vernon Morning Star, “received a loud ovation” when he was introduced to the crowd. . . . Former Vipers head coach Troy Mick too Knox: “This is the saddest day of my life. Part of my heart feels ripped out. I haven’t stopped crying since this morning.” . . . Knox’s story is right here.
Sad day today. Lost a great friend in Duncan Wray, owner of the Vernon Vipers. He was one of the best people that I have ever worked for / with. Learned a lot from him and respected him greatly. A truly great man. Rest in peace and God Bless. @WrayDuncan
The WHL’s disciplinary office added to its coffers on Thursday, having fined a couple of its general managers.
Peter Anholt of the Lethbridge Hurricanes got touched for $750 “for actions following” a Jan. 5 game against the visiting Vancouver Giants, who won that contest, 5-2.
Stu MacGregor of the Kamloops Blazers will be $500 lighter after being fined “for actions following” a game against the visiting the Spokane Chiefs on Sunday night. The Blazers won that game, 2-1.
Meanwhile, two players have drawn three-game suspensions.
D Matthew Benson of the Moose Jaw Warriors will sit out after taking a headshot major and game misconduct in a game against the host Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday.
F Max James of the Tri-City Americans got hit with three games after he took a charging major and game misconduct for a hit during a game against the host Everett Silvertips on Wednesday night.
The Swift Current Broncos, having gone all-in at the WHL trade deadline, are hoping their fans will follow suit at the box office. The team announced Thursday that it is selling pro-rated season tickets — prices are based on the number of regular-season home games remaining — through Jan. 31.
Season-ticket holders, of course, also have the first option on their seats for the 2018 playoffs. As well, should the Broncos have 2,100 season tickets sold by Jan. 31 — they went over 2,000 on Thursday — they will be giving away one free 2017-18 season ticket during each of the last 10 home regular-season games.
According to Dianne Sletten, the team’s director of business operations, “We’ve sold (more than) 250 season tickets this week and are thrilled to see an electric atmosphere as we push forward.”
The Broncos are at home Saturday when they entertain the Edmonton Oil Kings. Three of the Broncos — D Tyler Steenbergen, Canada’s golden boy, D Artyom Minulin (Russia) and F Aleksi Heponiemi (Finland) — will be saluted for having played in the WJC in Buffalo.
The Swift Current Broncos are scheduled to play their first game since the trade deadline tonight against the host Prince Albert Raiders.
What makes this game noteworthy is that the Raiders, who are 19th in the 22-team WHL’s overall standings, have guaranteed a victory over the No. 2 Broncos.
Yes, they have!
“Here’s how it works,” reads a Raiders’ news release. “After we beat Swift Current, we’ll all be happy. To be honest, we don’t think we’re going to lose.
“In the small chance that the Broncos pull off a miracle, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll hand out ticket vouchers to all fans in attendance on the way out. Each fan can bring that voucher, as well as the used game ticket from Friday night, to the Raiders box office on Saturday, Jan. 13, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and redeem it for a free ticket to Saturday night’s game against the Moose Jaw Warriors.”
After the Raiders post the victory, they will trail the Broncos by 21 points.
On the subject of players having returned from the WJC, the Kelowna Rockets honoured D Cal Foote and F Dillon Dube prior to a 7-4 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Wednesday night. Both played for Canada in Buffalo, with Dube serving as team captain. . . . Unfortunately, Dube wasn’t in attendance on Wednesday, as a flu bug kept him out of action.
Meanwhile, the Portland Winterhawks welcomed back F Kieffer Bellows (U.S.) and D Henri Jokiharju (Finland) on Thursday. Both players are expected to play tonight (Friday) in Kennewick, Wash., against the Tri-City Americans. The Americans should have D Jake Bean, who also played for Canada, in their lineup tonight, too. Bean was acquired by the Americans from the Calgary Hitmen earlier in the week. He arrived in Kennewick on Thursday.
The Tri-City Americans have signed F Blake Stevenson, 16, to a WHL contract. Stevenson has five goals and three assists in 27 games with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks and will remain there for the remainder of this season. Last season, he had 23 goals and 32 assists for the minor midget AAA CNHA Canucks. . . . The Americans selected him in the fourth round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.
The Saskatoon Blades have released F Dryden Michaud, 19, and he has joined the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles. From Maple Ridge, B.C., Michaud had two goals and two assists in 29 games this season. Last season, he had one goal in 29 games with the Blades.
The Saskatoon Blades have added F Tristen Robins and F Kyle Crnkovic to their roster for a three-game road trip that features stops in Red Deer on Saturday, Cranbrook, B.C., on Sunday, and Calgary on Tuesday. . . . Robins, who turned 16 on Nov. 15, is from Brandon and plays at the Rink Hockey Academy in Winnipeg. He is the son of former Blades G Trevor Robins. Tristen was acquired from the Regina Pats earlier in the week. They had selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 bantam draft. . . . Crnkovic, the Blades’ first-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft, played two WHL games earlier this season. He is playing for the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team in the CSSHL. . . . The Blades won’t have F Kirby Dach on this trip. Dach, who is to turn 17 on Jan. 21, has four goals and 19 assists in 23 games. However, he hasn’t played since Dec. 27 and is sidelined on a weekly basis with an undisclosed injury.
F Ian Briscoe, 18, who was released by the Seattle Thunderbirds, has signed with the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings. Briscoe, from Winnipeg, had three assists in 24 games this season. Last season, he had two goals in 20 games. He also played 22 games with Dauphin last season, recording six goals and 10 assists. . . . Seattle selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 bantam draft.
The Moose Jaw Warriors have dropped D Brenden Kwiatkowski, 17, from their roster. He is expected to join the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm. Kwiatkowski, who is from Grande Prairie, had one assist in 22 games with the Warriors.
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No Games Scheduled.
FRIDAY (all times local):
Edmonton at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Swift Current at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Medicine Hat at Regina, 7 p.m.
Calgary at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.
Lethbridge at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
Prince George at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.
Portland vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Kamloops at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.
Kelowna vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:35 p.m.
TWEET OF THE DAY
#MeanwhileInKHL A fight between Avangard Omsk's Andrei Stas and Mikhail Fisenko went down during a celebratory dinner at a restaurant. Stas had to be attended to by an Ambulance and restaurant workers had a ton of blood to clean up after the event. pic.twitter.com/Yxg9TgkaKR