The WHL released its 2022-23 regular-season schedule on Tuesday afternoon with each of the 22 teams to play 68 games — 34 home and 34 on the road.
And, yes, there will be some interlocking play between conferences, something that was missing in 2021-22.
So . . . all you Western Conference fans who are planning on watching your home club play the Regina Pats and superstar F Connor Bedard in your building please take two steps forward. . . .
Uhh, sorry, not so fast U.S. Division fans. You are going to get visits from the six Central Division teams, but not from East Division clubs. B.C Division cities will get to see the East Division teams once each, but not the Central Division teams.
Bedard, who will turn 17 on July 17, is the favourite to be the first-overall selection in the NHL’s 2023 draft. Despite his age, he is preparing for his third WHL season, that is if you include the development season that was played early in 2021 when the pandemic wiped out what would have been the 2020-21 regular season.
Prior to that season, Hockey Canada granted Bedard exceptional status, the first WHL player to be given the right to play an WHL entire season at 15. Playing in a semi-bubble situation in Regina, Bedard, who is from North Vancouver, B.C., had 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games before leaving to play for Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF U-18 World Championship in Frisco, Texas. He had seven goals and seven assists in seven games as Canada won gold.
Then, with each team playing a 68-game 2021-22 regular-season schedule, the WHL chose not to have its teams cross over and play in the other conference. Playing strictly within the Eastern Conference, then, Bedard put up 51 goals and 49 assists in 62 games. He also captained Canada’s U-18 team at the 2022 IIHF U-18 World Championship in Germany in April. He totalled six goals and an assist in four games, although Canada lost a quarterfinal game.
With a generational player like Bedard on one of its teams, and considering the pandemic-related circumstances that impacted the past two seasons, the WHL could have scored a public relations coup had it made sure that each of its teams played at least one game in every other arena in 2022-23. But it chose not to do that, so while the Pats are scheduled to visit each of the B.C. Division’s five teams, from Nov. 25 through Dec. 2, they won’t be venturing into the five-team U.S. Division.
That’s really too bad because assuming Bedard is the No. 1 selection in the 2023 NHL draft and depending on which team selects him, he may well be preparing for his final WHL season. That would mean the fans of U.S. Division teams could miss out entirely on seeing Bedard.
And that’s a cryin’ shame.
Unless you’re a member of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club and have booked a seat on their 2023 East Division tour. The Winterhawks are scheduled to play in Regina on Jan. 14 and Stewart Kemp, the Booster Club’s president, tells me that they have 25 of 50 slots already filled.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The WHL’s 2022-23 regular-season schedule is to open on Sept. 23 and wrap up on March 26. . . . According to the WHL, 585 of the 748 scheduled games “will be played on weekends or holidays.” . . . The 2023 playoffs are to begin on March 31. . . . The 2023 Memorial Cup is scheduled for May 26 through June 5 in Kamloops. . . . The defending-champion Edmonton Oil Kings will open at home to the Red Deer Rebels on Sept. 23. . . .
The Winnipeg Ice is to open the new season with 13 straight road games. The Ice is to open on Sept. 24 in Brandon against the Wheat Kings and finish the trip back in Brandon on Oct. 28. That trek will include five games in the B.C. Division. Neither the WHL nor the Ice explained why the season-opening road trip in news releases. However, the U of Manitoba Bisons men’s team, which also plays in the Wayne Fleming Arena, has scheduled four early-season home games at the Rink Training Centre in Oakbank before getting into their regular home rink on Nov. 11. So perhaps the Wayne Fleming Arena is undergoing more renovations. . . .
There will be one game on Dec. 18 (Edmonton at Calgary) after which the WHL will pause until a seven-game slate on Dec. 27. . . .
At this point, the schedule has the Seattle Thunderbirds playing all of their home games at the accesso Showare Centre in Kent, Wash., with the Everett Silvertips having all their home games in the Angel of the Winds Arena. In 2021-22, the teams met in one game at Climate Pledge Arena, the home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. Everett won the game, 4-0, before an announced crowd of 8,381. . . . The Calgary Hitmen, according to their schedule, will play all their home games at the Scotiabank Saddledome, which also is to be the home arena for the NHL’s Calgary Flames and their AHL affiliate, which has relocated from Stockton, Calif., as well as the NLL’s Calgary Roughnecks. Hmm, that is going to be one busy facility. . . .
As you read in this space on Sunday night, Norm Daley has joined the Kamloops Blazers as their president. Daley, who also will be the alternate governor, was introduced at a Monday morning news conference. He replaces Don Moores, who died of a heart attack on June 30, 2021, at the age of 65.
The WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, who have a long relationship with the Snowbirds aeronautic team, have undergone a branding change that includes a complete overhaul of their logo. The logo that had been a red Indian chief sporting a headdress now is circular and includes one of the Snowbirds planes — a Canadair CT-114 Tudor. . . . Ben Lypka of the Abbotsford News tweeted on June 29 that the Warriors had “filed a trademark” for the new logo. . . . The Warriors had announced in October 2020 that they were reviewing their brand. “This is not a knee-jerk reaction to what other sports teams have done,” Alan Millar, then the Warriors’ general manager, told the Regina Leader-Post at the time.“This was something that we’ve been having internal discussions about for a couple of years. I think it got to a point where we felt this was the right time and the right thing to do.” . . . The Warriors officially made the move on Tuesday. From a news release: “After two years of consultation with local stakeholders, community leaders and the Indigenous community, the Warriors launched a new brand on Tuesday.” . . . The news release is right here.
Headline at TheOnion.com: Nation unable to enjoy baseball without dozens of pitchers hitting .124.
G Ivan Fedotov won the KHL championship with CSKA Moscow earlier this year and had planned to play for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers next season on a recently signed entry-level contract. Instead, his plans were interrupted by officials over the weekend and now, according to J.P. Barry, his agent, he is ensconced at a remote military base. . . . The Associated Press has more on the Fedotov story right here.
Phillip Sitter of the Ames Tribune reported:
“The men’s hockey club at Iowa State University engaged in years of alcohol abuse, hazing and coercing money out of club members in exchange for status during ‘Rookie Parties,’ ‘Kangaroo Court’ and ‘Rookie Run’ events, according to university investigations’ findings.
“On (June 23), those findings led the club’s suspension to be extended to include all competition for the coming school year. All activities of the Cyclone Hockey Club were suspended in May after allegations about hazing and other concerns were brought to university administration in April.”
Interestingly, Sitter also wrote that “team and club community members, however, denied the university’s findings in a statement provided through an attorney on (June 23). The statement said the university mischaracterized the events and it accused Iowa State of using the allegations as a means to restructure management of the club.”
That complete story is right here.
On the subject of those golfers who have filled their bank accounts with Saudi Arabian money, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel asks: “Why do we expect American golfers to have more ethics and morals than American corporations, American sports leagues and the American government — all of which do business with nefarious nations?”
You may be aware that Phil Mickelson got US$200 million to join the LIV Tour, while Dustin Johnson got a cool $150 million. Charles Barkley piped up: “Hey, for $150 million I’d kill a relative, even one I liked.”
THE COACHING GAME: The Coachella Valley Firebirds, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, have hired Jessica Campbell as an assistant coach. She is the first female assistant coach in the AHL’s history. Most recently, Campbell has been working with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. She also was an assistant coach with the German national men’s team at the IIHF World Championship. With the Firebirds, she will work alongside head coach Dan Bylsma. . . . The Firebirds will play their first season in 2022-23. . . .
The junior B Columbia Valley Rockies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Emery Olauson to a “long-term contract” as their general manager and head coach. The length of the contract wasn’t revealed. He joins the Rockies, who play out of Invermere, B.C., from the Edmundston Blizzard of the Maritime Junior Hockey League with whom he had been head coach and assistant GM. His resume also includes a stint as GM and head coach of the KIJHL’s Grand Forks Border Bruins. . . . With the Rockies, he replaces Briar McNaney, who has joined the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers as an assistant coach. . . .
Doug Houda, who played four WHL seasons (1982-86), has signed on with the NHL’s New York Islanders as an assistant coach. He has been an NHL assistant coach for the past 16 seasons — 10 with the Boston Bruins and the past six with the Detroit Red Wings. Houda, 56, played three-plus seasons with the Calgary Wrangers, then finished up his WHL career by playing 35 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . .
The MJHL’s Portage Terriers have added Robbie Moar to their coaching staff as an assistant to Blake Spiller, their long-time general manager and head coach. Moar played in the MJHL, mostly with the Neepawa Natives and he spent two seasons (2019-21) there as an assistant coach. In 2021-22, Moar, a 29-year-old native of Portage la Prairie, played with the South East Manitoba Hockey League’s Portage Islanders.
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