Scattershooting on a Saturday night while wondering when to get out the snow shovel . . .

Scattershooting

The SJHL revealed Friday night that it has been given the OK for its teams to SJHLplay games “effective immediately.” Teams will be permitted to have a maximum of 150 fans at games, all of whom must wear masks. The league released a 24-game exhibition schedule Saturday night, with the first game scheduled for Thursday when the La Ronge Ice Wolves are to visit the Flin Flon Bombers. The two teams will meet four times in 10 days. Exhibition games will be played through Nov. 1.

With the Bombers being included, it tells us that the SJHL has received an exemption from government and health officials for the Bombers to travel in from Manitoba and for Saskatchewan teams to go into Manitoba. This isn’t a surprise, what with Flin Flon located pretty much atop the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.

But remember that the Saskatchewan government has told curlers they aren’t to travel outside the province for games, nor are curlers from other provinces to travel into Saskatchewan for competition.

The WHL, which is planning on opening its regular season on Jan. 8, wants to have its five Saskatchewan teams play in a division with the two Manitoba teams — the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice. But the WHL needs clearance for interprovincial play in order for that to happen.

Benny Walchuk of GX94 in Yorkton talked with Bill Chow, the SJHL president, and that interview is right here.


The BCHL has almost all of its teams playing exhibition games at the moment Wenatcheeas they prepare to open the regular season on Dec. 1. The exception is the Wenatchee, Wash., Wild, which isn’t involved because of U.S.-Canada border restrictions. . . . Instead, the Wild has scheduled a series of six scrimmages in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho about a three-hour drive from Wenatchee. . . . According to the Wild, the scrimmages will include “10-16 Western Hockey League players joining the Wild camp on a limited basis to participate in the scrimmages.” . . . Those scrimmages are scheduled for Oct. 22, 12:15 p.m.; Oct. 23, 7:15 p.m.; Nov. 6 and 7, and Nov. 13 and 14. Times for the latter four are TBA.



Nick Saban, the head coach of the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, tested positive earlier in the week. But Saban, 68, turned in three negatives before Saturday so was on the sideline on Saturday night in a 41-24 road victory against No. 3 Georgia. Yes, that was Saban with his mask down around his chin getting in the face of an on-field official.

On Friday, Kurt Streeter of The New York Times wrote, in part:

This is, of course, an unpredictable disease. Saban is 68 years old, a particularly vulnerable age for this virus. But that does not seem to matter to major college football, which keeps twisting itself into knots, straining to rationalize playing games amid a pandemic that has led to at least 217,000 deaths in the United States — with no end in sight.

Even with infection hitting its most famous coach, the mind-set of the college game’s most vigorous enablers has not altered. They are bent on moving forward.

“He knows the risks,” they say. “Let’s keep going.”

“Move on.”

Streeter’s column is right here.


Here’s Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post in a column that explains who/what is in charge of the sports world these days:

What a tonic it would be to attend a live sporting event that features a prominent franchise.

“The problem, though, is that nobody calls the shots.

“Airborne particles that we cannot see will dictate a future we still cannot envision.

“Who knows what next week will bring, let alone next month or next year?

Take a look at the daily COVID figures, from coast to coast, and sigh.

“A long winter looms.”

The complete column is right here.


Snow

. . . or it could be you any morning this month!


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Here’s Brad Dickson, a humorist who used to be a columnist with the Omaha World-Herald: “The mayor and county health director held a press conference where they said go ahead with your Halloween parties and trick or treat ‘just be smart about it.’ At what point do people stop getting the benefit of the doubt about being smart on Covid?”

——

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has scheduled its regular season to open on Dec. 1 with all eight of its teams in a bubble in Omaha, Neb. The 26-game season will be split into two parts, with each team playing 10 games in the first three weeks of December in Omaha. . . . In the New Year, each team will play 16 games — eight home and eight away. . . . The NCHC comprises Colorado Springs, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. . . . From a news release: “Overall medical support and COVID-19 testing for all participating student-athletes, staff and officials in the Pod will be conducted through the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), located in Omaha. Medical protocols and testing strategies for the entire season are currently being developed with top medical professionals from UNMC and the Global Center for Health Security.” . . . That news release is right here. . . .

The 11-team Atlantic Hockey Association is to open its regular season on Nov. 1. Each team will play 24 games and will have the ability to add four games. . . . From the Colonial Sports Network: “In an attempt to limit exposure of travel during the season, the AHA has divided 10 teams into eastern and western pods, with five teams in each geographical pod and Air Force standing alone on the outside looking in. The eastern pod consists of AIC, Army, Holy Cross, Bentley and Sacred Heart. Robert Morris finds itself in the western pod, joined by Canisius, Mercyhurst, RIT and Niagara.” That leaves Air Force to bounce back and forth between pods. . . .

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times checks in: “Attention, Dan Mullen (the Florida football coach who wanted to ‘see 90,000 (fans) in The Swamp’ for the LSU game — only to have to postpone it because so many of his players tested positive for COVID-19): Your Karma of the Year Award awaits you down at the front desk. A gentle reminder: Just be sure when you come to pick it up you’re wearing a mask.” . . . More from Ms. Karma: Mullen announced on Saturday that he also has tested positive. . . .

Oulun Kärpät, a team in the Finnish Liiga, has been quarantined until Oct. 24 after one of its players tested positive. The test came back on Friday night. At least three games will have to be rescheduled. . . .

At least one ringette and two minor hockey organizations in Ottawa have suspended play until current restrictions are lifted. The Nepean Minor Hockey Association, West End Hockey League and the City of Ottawa Ringette Association have shut down. . . . At the time they suspended operations, 10 skaters, including coaches, were allowed on the ice at any one time, with only practices without spectators permitted. All dressing rooms are closed so players had to arrive with their gear on. . . . Hockey Eastern Ontario, which oversees the region’s amateur hockey, has had an undisclosed number of positive tests show up in players and volunteers. In a statement, Ottawa Public Health said, according to CBC, that recent contract tracing investigations have “identified confirmed transmissions and outbreaks between staff and players.” . . . The CBC piece is right here. . . .

Things have reached the point in Winnipeg where officials are talking about shutting down arenas if hockey fans and players don’t do a better job of following public health orders. “The warning comes as the city battles the worst surge of COVID-19 cases in the province since the beginning of the pandemic,” writes Sara Petz of CBC, “prompting Mayor Brian Bowman to urge people to think of others, and wear a face mask.” . . . At one point in a Friday news conference, Mayor Bowman said: “Wear a friggin’ mask.” . . . That story is right here.



If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: In the past few days, the telephone scammers have been on the line from California, Idaho, Maine, Montana and New Jersey? Or might it be Agent Orange trying to get my vote? . . . He’s got endorsements from the Taliban and Kirstie Alley so how can anyone be undecided? . . . Wondering how many games your favourite WHL team might play in the 2021 season? Andy Beesley, the Prince George Cougars’ vice-president of business, told Hartley Miller of mypgnow.com and the GOAT 94.3: “As a baseline, I would expect to have 30-plus games, probably 34 games is a very minimum amount, maybe up to 50, but those details are yet to be determined.” . . . Bob Tory, the GM of the Tri-City Americans, told Myck Miller of KEPR-TV that “all our players have had their medicals done . . . we’ve been fortunate. We haven’t had one player test positive.” Tory said that while the Americans would love to have a full house for their opener in January, he isn’t counting on it. “No . . . we’re hoping that that’s the case,” he said. “But we have to prepare for the fact that we might have to start the season with no fans and then hopefully . . . if that’s successful they allow 25 per cent then 50 and then maybe full attendance.”


YardSale

Lynn Lake legend takes on the ‘Hammer’ . . . Remembering a fax from Rocky . . . The virus finds the QMJHL

When I was a hockey-playing teenager in Lynn Lake, Man., Steve Andrascik was THE MAN.

Two years older than me, he played two seasons (1967-69) with the Flin Flon Andrascik.Bombers, totalling 62 goals and 62 assists in 110 games. He also earned 230 penalty minutes as he sometimes rode shotgun with Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach. Steve was selected 11th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 12-team NHL’s 1968 draft — 24 players were selected over three rounds.

Steve would come home in the offseason and work in the mine. Competitive? Sometimes he would stop off at the fastball diamond on his way to work and pitch for one of the men’s teams . . . while wearing work boots.

Yes, he was a Lynn Lake legend.

As a pro, he played 77 games in the WHA and had stints in the CHL, SHL and AHL, finishing up with the Hershey Bears with whom, as I understand it, he was quite popular.

His NHL career consisted of one game, a playoff game in Madison Square Garden. After spending the 1971-72 season with the AHL’s Providence Reds — he had 14 goals, 10 assists and 104 penalty minutes in 74 games — the New York Rangers added him for their playoff run. On April 20, he was in their lineup for a 3-2 victory over Chicago in Game 3 of what would be a sweep of the Blackhawks.

The Rangers would lose the Stanley Cup final in six games to Bobby Orr’s Boston Bruins. Steve didn’t get in the New York lineup but he was along for the ride.

That brings us to the following tweet . . .

——

The tweet referencing the bout between Steve Andrascik and Dave Schultz reminded me of a WHL-related story from a few seasons back.

This is one of those stories that really is too good to try and confirm just in case it didn’t happen. It just may be one of those stories best prefaced with “Legend has it . . .”

But, hey, here it is . . .

It was early in December of 1996 and Rocky Thompson and the Medicine Hat Tigers were preparing to head out on a three-game swing into B.C. They were scheduled to visit the Kelowna Rockets (Dec. 10), Kamloops Blazers (Dec. 11) and Prince George Cougars (Dec. 13).

Defenceman Scott Parker was the man with the Rockets, while the Blazers had forward Rob Skrlac. In Prince George, Zdeno Chara, a young 6-foot-8 defenceman from Trencin, Slovakia, was making people sit up and take notice.

Thompson, of course, knew the challenges he would face on this road trip. He was in his fourth season with the Tigers, although he would be traded to the Swift Current Broncos on Jan. 24, which was the trade deadline. Todd McLellan, the Broncos’ general manager and head coach, acquired Thompson, 19, and sniper Josh Green, 19, for F Tyler Perry, 19; F Andrew Milne, 18; D Kevin Mackie, 15; F Brett Scheffelmaier, 15; and a 1997 second-round bantam draft pick.

But that trade was yet to happen.

Preparing to head into the rugged B.C. Division, Thompson was well aware of just who would be his dance partners.

He knew all about Parker and Skrlac, both of whom were WHL veterans. But, hey, what about the new guy in Prince George?

Well, Thompson thought it would be a good idea to really test the new guy, so before heading out on the road he sent a fax to Chara via the Cougars’ office. “I’m coming for you” is all it read.

The Tigers opened the trip in Kelowna and, true to form, Thompson and Parker scrapped right off the opening faceoff. Moments before the puck was dropped, Parker skated up from the Kelowna blue line and traded shots with the Rockets’ starting right winger, which put him nose-to-nose with Thompson, who was lined up at left wing. The epic bout that followed is available on YouTube.

One night later, Thompson was back in the Tigers’ lineup in Kamloops, but as hard as Skrlac tried in the early going he wasn’t able to engage the Medicine Hat tough guy. Eventually, the referee approached Thompson and  asked if he had plans to accommodate Skrlac. Thompson told him that he had damaged a hand in the bout with Parker so wasn’t about to scrap with Skrlac.

Two nights later, Thompson picked up a roughing minor in Prince George, but there wasn’t a bout with Chara.

The best laid plans — and sent faxes — and all that . . .

BTW, the Tigers made out just fine on the trip, beating the Rockets 5-4 in OT on a goal by F Jason Chimera at 4:48 of extra time, winning 3-1 in Kamloops and earning a 2-2 OT tie (remember ties?) in Prince George.

Of course, we are referencing the same Rocky Thompson who, at the age of 43, is preparing for his first season as an associate coach with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. He spent the previous three seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. He also was the head coach of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires for two seasons, helping them to the 2017 Memorial Cup title.



These are interesting times in major junior hockey, where the OHL and WHL are qmjhlnewhoping to get their regular seasons started in December. The QMJHL, meanwhile, has one weekend under its belt and has lost three teams. . . . The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Sherbrooke Phoenix have suspended all in-person activities. That comes after an Armada player tested positive following a weekend doubleheader between the teams. . . . At the same time, the Armada and Quebec Remparts have been shut down at least for the rest of this month as they are in a red zone as defined by the provincial government. . . . Armada staff and players are in isolation as they await further testing and results, and the outcome of contact tracing. . . . The Armada and Remparts each has eight games on their October schedules.

From a QMJHL news release:

“Following the Quebec government’s announcement to prohibit the practice of sports in the designated red zones, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is very disappointed in this decision.

“The conduct of our activities has been above reproach since the start of training camps at the end of August. The return to play protocol was approved and applauded by public health officials in Quebec and by the three Maritime-based provinces in which the league operates. It has been hailed as thorough and effective. The league would like to congratulate the players and team staffs for its flawless execution.

“Over the course of the next few days, we will share with Quebec public health officials additional measures which will render the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada’s and Quebec Remparts’ bubbles even more secure. We hope that these new directives will be well-received by Quebec’s health agency. The QMJHL is convinced that these additional measures will go above and beyond what is required to protect our players, staffs and officials and enable all of our teams to continue playing.”


That’s Kelly Olynyk at the left of the photo in the following tweet. He and his Miami Heat are scheduled to play Game 4 of the NBA final tonight in Orlando. The Los Angeles Lakers lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

F Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers tested positive on Monday. According to the Oilers, he is “in voluntary self-quarantine at his home. He will continue to be monitored and will follow all associated health protocols. He is feeling well and is experiencing mild symptoms.” . . .

Kevin Sumlin, the head coach of the Arizona football team, has tested positive. He is in self-isolation while contact tracing is conducted. His team is scheduled to begin practising on Friday, with its first game scheduled for Nov. 7 against host Utah. . . . “My family and I have been aggressive in our efforts to remain safe and healthy throughout the past seven months,” Sumlin said in a statement. “My positive test result, while a shock, is a stark reminder of how we must all remain vigilant in our focus on hand washing, physical distancing and face coverings.” . . . At least four FBS coaches have tested positive since July, the others being Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Jason Candle of Toledo and Blake Anderson of Arkansas State. . . .

Bobby Bowden, who spent 34 years as the head coach of the Florida State football team, has tested positive. Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Bowden, who will turn 91 next month, “tested positive following his release from (a Tallahassee) hospital last weekend while being treated for an unrelated leg infection.” . . . He had been released from hospital on Thursday and was informed on Saturday that he had tested positive. . . . Bowden retired in 2009 after 44 seasons as a football coach.


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone we played in Winnipeg tournament . . . Hey, parents, no social media. OK? . . . PCHA fills out coaching staff


You know what makes me sick? Considering the times in which we now live and the sacrifices that a lot of us are making, a story like this makes me want to puke. It really does. Why are some people so selfish? Why do some people have such a lack of respect for others?

Fiona Odlum and Bonnie Allen of CBC News report:

“Several Saskatchewan hockey teams took extraordinary measures to hide their participation in a Winnipeg hockey tournament in July, including changing their team names, withholding player names on game rosters and forbidding parents from posting on social media.

“Despite the secrecy, the teams maintain they did not violate any rules.”

The North American Hockey Classic featured about 60 minor hockey teams  with players ages seven to 12. The NAHC is owned by 50 Below Sports and Entertainment, which owns the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues.

It’s interesting that while five Saskatchewan teams — players ages seven to 12 — travelled to Winnipeg to compete July 16-19, the Regina Junior Pats chose not to take part.

Stacey Cattell, the CEO of the Pats organization, told CBC:

“Our Junior Pats program was notified that interprovincial travel for the purposes of tournaments was prohibited. That was brought to our attention, and we said, ‘No problem, our kids will stay home and practise, and follow the rules.

“We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize the COVID-19 response and the reopening of our province.”

And then there’s Chris Light, who coaches one of the Wheatland teams that took part. According to the CBC story, he “told CBC News he didn’t attend the tournament and was on a fishing trip. A team photo from Winnipeg shows Light at the tournament.”

There are a whole lot of minor hockey parents who should be absolutely furious about this situation. As one Regina minor hockey parent told Taking Note: “They give every hockey parent who has been following the rules and abiding with what is out there a black eye.”

The complete CBC story is right here.

I have one more question: Where was common sense?


City council in Prince George, struggling to figure out a way to minimize the city’s deficit position in these pandemic times, voted on Monday to keep the CN Centre, home to the WHL’s Cougars, closed though the end of 2020.

Council also voted not to open the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in which the BCHL’s Spruce Kings play.

At the same time, three smaller arenas will open on Aug. 17, one of which is home to the U18 Cariboo Cougars.

On Tuesday, the WHL-Cougars and the Spruce Kings both said they have been told by city officials that their arenas will be available should their seasons get started. The WHL is aiming for an Oct. 2 start to its regular season, with the BCHL planning on Dec. 1.



To recap, MLB had to cancel or postpone — I don’t think it has figured that part out yet — two games on Monday. Miami’s home-opener went by the wayside after the Marlins had a bunch of folks test positive — at last count, there are believed to be 15 players and two coaches.

The Baltimore Orioles, who were to have provided the opposition in Miami, flew home, meaning they wouldn’t be there for a Tuesday game.

Meanwhile, the New York Yankees were to have met the host Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. But the Yankees would have had to use the facilities in which the Marlins had spent the weekend, so Monday’s game in Philly didn’t happen, either.

On Tuesday, MLB announced that the Marlins are done until at least Monday, while the Phillies are on hold until Friday when the Toronto Blue Jays come calling. The Yankees and the Orioles will play each other a time or two this week, then resume their original schedules on the weekend.

Dr. Arthur Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, told Rob Gillies of The Associated Press that “anyone who knows anything about this problem and infectious disease epidemiology could have anticipated this. This plan was designed to fail and they went through with it anyways.”


And then there’s LHP Eduardo Rodriguez of the Boston Red Sox, who has said that he now has a heart condition — myocarditis — with which he was diagnosed after a bout with COVID-19.

Rodriguez, 27, was shut down from baseball activities on Thursday, and later confirmed the myocarditis diagnosis.

“The pitcher added that he feels normal health-wise after developing myocarditis, a condition that inflames the heart muscle and can cause abnormal rhythms,” wrote Bryan Mcwilliam of thescore.com. “Rodriguez said he was told that about 10-20% of people with COVID-19 develop the condition.”

OK. So MLB has a team riddled with the virus and a pitcher who contracted it and was left with a heart condition.

Oh . . . let’s not forget Davey Martinez, the Washington Nationals’ manager. Martinez, 55, has a heart condition and actually underwent a procedure for it in September.

On Monday, in talking about the Marlins’ debacle, Martinez told reporters: “I’m going to be honest with you, I’m scared. I really am.”

And still the show goes on . . .


Here’s Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle, writing about the situation in baseball after Monday’s news:

“The fire consuming baseball will likely spread to the NFL, which is scheduled to open training camps this week. Like baseball, football will try to play a sport in the real world, without forcing players into a bubble. Like baseball, the league will test players constantly. And though teams will be using their own designated lab, like baseball, they still are using up supplies like swabs and testing equipment when there are shortages of such things in the real world.

“Unlike baseball, the NFL involves about four to five times the number of humans, greatly multiplying the likelihood of an outbreak. On Monday, the Minnesota Vikings’ infection control officer tested positive for the virus. I’m not making this up.”

Her complete column, which is one in a long line of terrific pieces she has written, is right here.


Jason


The NFL has an opt-out deadline of Aug. 3 and the New England Patriots already have had six players go that route — LB Dont’a Hightower, whose fiancée had a baby on July 16; RT Marcus Cannon, a cancer survivor; S Patrick Chung, RB Brandon Bolden, FB Danny Vitale and OL Najee Toran. . . . Also opting out so far are WR Marquise Goodwin, Philadelphia Eagles; WR Stephen Guidry, Dallas Cowboys; DT Star Lotulelei, Buffalo Bills; DT Kyle Peko, Denver Broncos; OT Andre Smith, Baltimore Ravens; KR De’Anthony Thomas, Baltimore; and DT Eddie Vanderdoes, Houston Texans. . . . There is a list of opt-outs right here.

——

Here’s Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, with NFL players about to start reporting to camps:
”This virus is undefeated at totally reshaping the way every other sport has been forced to operate, and had a massive impact on both the volume and location of games. Expecting the NFL to be different, somehow exceptional to COVID-19, never made much sense, and once the training facilities finally start filling up this week that stands to be more obvious than ever.”


Jason Becker, a former WHL player and coach, has taken over as the U18 prep head coach at the Pacific Coast Hockey Academy in Victoria. Last season, Becker was the head coach of the U18 prep team at St. George’s in Vancouver. He also spent time at the Okanagan Hockey Academy and was an assistant for three seasons with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. . . . After playing in the WHL (Saskatoon Blades, Red Deer Rebels, Kamloops Blazers, Swift Current Broncos, 1990-95), Becker, now 46, spent five seasons with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies. After playing in Europe, he got into coaching by working for five seasons as an assistant coach with the Prince George Cougars. . . . At PCHA, he takes over from Kelly Shields, who stepped aside after seven seasons. Shields remains on staff as associate head coach. . . . Meanwhile, Greg Smith will be back for a fourth season at PCHA. This will be his third as head coach of the U16s. Dan Bell’s third season as head coach of the U15s will be his fifth at PCHA. . . . Mark Kosick is back as the head of player development and skills coach, and Rod Holt has come aboard as recruiting and scouting co-ordinator. For the past five season, Holt has been a B.C. regional scout for the Victoria Royals.



The junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League plans to open its regular season on Sept. 29. Each of its 13 teams will play 44 regular-season games. . . . The schedule includes the expansion Chilliwack Jets under general manager/head coach Clayton Robinson.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “Lord, the money we do spent on government. And it’s not a bit better than that government we got for one-third the money 20 years ago.”


Beer


The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) has postponed competition in cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball for the fall season. It now is working on spring schedules for those sports, each of which has been designated medium- or high-risk by the NCAA. Golf and tennis, which are low-risk, will play this fall in accordance with health directives. . . .

The Summit League, which includes the U of North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State, has postponed the start of its sports seasons until Sept. 23. That includes men’s and women’s cross-country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. . . . It doesn’t include football. For example, the UND Fighting Hawks play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. . . . UND also announced that it has had 20 student-athletes test positive. . . . Tom Miller of the Grand Forks Herald has more right here. . . .

The Michigan Daily reported Tuesday that the U of Michigan has halted voluntary workouts for ice hockey, volleyball, swimming and diving, and field hockey because of positive tests and contact tracing. The ice hockey team may return to workouts later this week. The university said it has had 12 student-athletes and one staff member test positive. . . . The Daily’s story is right here.


Date

NHL revamps playoff format for Covid Cup playoffs . . . But will there be games? . . . Royals hope Price is right

The unfortunate thing about Gary Bettman, the commissioner of all things NHL, telling us a whole lot of non-specific things on Tuesday afternoon is that we now are faced with another couple of months of this stuff.

Why?

Because nobody knows a whole lot about anything right now.

This pandemic-causing virus is brand new, which is why it’s the novel coronavirus. NHLScientists and the medical community are learning about it as we move along.

So, on Tuesday, Bettman told us that the NHL’s 2019-20 regular season is over and that there is to be some kind of convoluted Stanley Cup playoff featuring 24 teams, up from the 16 that would have made it in a ‘normal’ season, with all games played without fans in the stands. (I’m wondering if the players from the seven teams that didn’t make it are breathing sighs of relief.)

Bettman talked about the draft lottery and the draft, and that these playoffs may not get started until sometime in August, which would mean a Stanley Cup presentation two months after that, which would mean the 2020-21 regular season wouldn’t start until January.

(Whoever comes out of this as the Stanley Cup champion gets a gigantic asterisk. Right? And if that happens to be the Toronto Maple Leafs, it doesn’t officially bring an end to that championship drought that has been ongoing since their last title in 1967. Right?)

Bettman also said that this push to decide a Stanley Cup winner isn’t about the money, and if you believe that you just haven’t been paying attention. Because that’s all that it’s about; it always is.

Bettman also said that the playoffs will go ahead in two hub cities, with half the teams in one and the other half in the other. As Bettman spoke, there apparently were 10 cities under consideration.

But it became evident later that the NHL will have to drop Vancouver from that list because the province of B.C. doesn’t seem likely to drop its demand that incoming international travellers self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief medical officer, said later Tuesday afternoon that, although she hasn’t seen an NHL plan yet, “We’re not bending the rules in any way that would put what we have achieved here in B.C. at risk.”

Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, offered: “If in fact we are not able to really find an interpretation of the quarantine consistent with our players’ ability to travel in, and not be able to do a strict quarantine in a hotel room, we won’t be in a position to use any of the Canadian cities as a hub city.”

If it comes down to Dr. Henry vs. the NHL, my money is on B.C.’s top doc. If you aren’t aware, she’s a star out here. A shoe company put out a line of shoes in her honour and they sold out in minutes, at a suggested retail of $339 a pair, crashing the website in the process. T-shirts with her likeness on them have raised more than 10 grand for charity.

Oh, and did I mention that, despite all of the positive spin we heard yesterday, all of this might not happen at all.

So for the next few weeks we are going to see a barrage of stories and reports on all of this, including playoff previews, speculation on what team rosters will look like and on and on.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday evening, the virus-related death toll in the United States was at 94,702, according to statistics kept by John Hopkins University. The number of deaths in Canada was at 6,639. That figure worldwide is somewhere around 350,000.

No one was talking about any of that on Tuesday in all the chatter about the NHL’s possible return to play.

——

The most sensible comments I have seen to date on the NHL’s plan to return to play have come from Minnesota Wild G Devan Dubnyk. He is the Wild’s representative on the NHLPA’s executive board.

The executive board voted 29-2 last week to accept the 24-team format as presented by the NHL. However, that doesn’t mean the NHL is anywhere close to returning to the ice.

In speaking with Michael Russo of The Athletic on Monday, Dubnyk said: “We voted strictly on the format. In other words, ‘If we are to come back, this is how it’s going to be played.’ But we have not even touched on logistics or cities or travel or testing or how the economics will work or what this quarantine bubble (the players are) supposed to live in will be like or any of that stuff yet. Nothing else has been voted on … yet.”

Dubnyk also said:

“I think it’s really important to start having these conversations with as many players as we can about, ‘Guys, what scenarios are we OK with?’ From what it sounds like, it’s going to be some sort of hub city scenario, so we’ve got to talk about that. How long are guys OK with being away for? When we are in this city, are we locked in our hotel room? Going from the hotel room to the rink and back only, are guys OK with just doing that? Can our families come with us, or if there’s a family emergency and we leave the bubble (to go back into society), can we return to the bubble or are we done? What’s the food situation? Like, can we only eat in our hotel rooms? How often are we tested? Who pays for that? What’s the damage economically to the sport?

“All of these things, and there’s so many variables, need to be talked about and we’ve got to start getting a grasp on it now so that it doesn’t just hit us in the face all of a sudden. This stuff hasn’t been discussed with the players. Everything’s just been so hypothetical.”

Dubnyk also admitted to Russo that he wonders “if this is going to truly happen unless things relax enough where that bubble doesn’t necessarily need to exist as tightly as we think it does right now. Even with the players, it’s like, if your wife’s having a baby or something and you have to leave, do I have to miss an entire series now or suddenly quarantine for two weeks?

“That’s why I just feel like it doesn’t seem feasible to make this happen unless those rules relax by the time we’re going to play later this summer. There’s just so much stuff that hasn’t been figured out yet that we’ve got to start figuring out what are we OK with or not OK with, and then once that’s discussed, have another vote.”

Russo’s complete story is right here.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.”


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team and put a smile on her face by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.



Rory McIlroy has told the BBC that he doesn’t believe the 2020 Ryder Cup will be played. It is scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits near Sheboygan, Wisc. . . . McIlroy would like to see the event moved to 2021. . . .

Japan’s Nippon Professonal Baseball season is set to start on June 19, but without fans in attendance. The league, which was to have started play on March 20, has yet to release its schedule, but is hoping to have each of its 12 teams play about 120 games, down from 143. . . .

The Alpine skiing world championships are scheduled for Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, from Feb. 7-21. However, the Italian Winter Sports Federation already is talking about postponing them until March 2022, which would be one month following the end of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games that are scheduled for Feb. 4-20. . . .

The EuroLeague, Europe’s top men’s basketball league, has cancelled its season, which had been on pause since March 12. The league comprises 18 teams from 10 countries. . . .

The 2021 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships have been cancelled. They had been scheduled for Vail, Colo., from March 1-6. . . .

The AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons have had adjustments made to their rent by the town council. According to a news release from the town, Dragons owner Blair Christianson had made a presentation to council on May 11 that explained the team is likely to lose about $330,000 because of the pandemic and that without some aid the team wouldn’t be viable. On Monday, Mayor Heather Colberg said the “adjustments to the fee structure will have a financial impact of $66,291.50 over four years.” . . .

The 11-team Western States Hockey League announced Tuesday that it won’t play in 2020-21 because of uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. The WSHL includes four teams in Alberta — the Barrhead Bombers, Cold Lake Hornets, Edson Aeros and Hinton Timberwolves — and two in Washington state — the Bellingham Blazers and Seattle Totems. . . . The WSHL, a pay-to-play league, bills itself as junior A but to say it has had trouble gaining traction would be something of an understatement. . . .



Dan Price, who joined the Victoria Royals as an assistant coach during the 2016-17 VictoriaRoyalsseason, now is the WHL team’s general manager and head coach. He has completed three seasons as the team’s head coach. He takes over as GM from Cam Hope, who was fired on April 29 after eight seasons in the office. The Royals made the playoffs in each of those eight seasons, but never were able to get out of the second round. . . . The Royals are 105-81-18 in Price’s three seasons as head coach. . . . Price, 45, holds a law degree from the U of Saskatchewan. . . . His only experience as a general manager is from three seasons (2009-12) as the GM/head coach of the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons. . . . There now are six WHL teams with one man holding the titles of general manager and head coach. The others are Dean Brockman, Swift Current Broncos; Willie Desjardins, Medicine Hat Tigers; Mike Johnston, Portland Winterhawks; Mark Lamb, Prince George Cougars; and Brent Sutter, Red Deer Rebels.


Casinos


It seems that John Pateman is more convinced than ever that his Prince George Cougars PrinceGeorgeare on the right track. He just doesn’t know when the WHL team is going to get started on that track. . . . “To me, the million-dollar question is when are we going to be playing games,” Pateman, a co-owner and the franchise’s president, told Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen. “Certainly in our league, our main sources of revenue are certainly the fans and corporate sponsorships for rink boards and all that, but you have to have fans. What everybody is attempting to do is prepare for every option that’s out there so when we know what’s going to happen we’re fully prepared.” . . . Pateman and the ownership group there purchased the Cougars after the 2013-14 season, so they are waiting for their seventh season as owners to begin. The Cougars wouldn’t have been in the playoffs last season, had the pandemic not wiped out everything, and Pateman has said they were 1,500 fans per game from breaking even. Still, he told Clarke, “In the last two seasons, I feel we’ve really started to head in the right direction.” . . . The complete story is right here.



The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves have signed associate coach Gaelan Patterson to a one-year extension. Patterson, who is from La Ronge, is preparing for this third season with the Ice Wolves. . . . Patterson, 29, played four seasons (2006-10) with the WHL’s Saskatoon seasons (2015-18) in Europe.


Winterhawks sale would be ninth since 2007 . . . WHL GM tells Ewen ‘lineup’ of shoppers is expected . . . What’s the price tag?

Sooner or later, the Portland Winterhawks likely will be sold.

Why likely? Because never say never, and perhaps owner Bill Gallacher will end up keeping the WHL franchise.

But if the Winterhawks are sold, it will mark the ninth time a WHL franchise has Portlandchanged hands since the Kamloops Blazers went from community to private ownership during the summer of 2007. Of course, it also will be the second time the Winterhawks will have changed hands since 2008.

However, as of Tuesday night, there didn’t appear to be anything new regarding the Winterhawks’ situation, The WHL’s top regular-season team in the shortened 2019-20 regular-season is in receivership after a number of Gallacher-owned companies filed for bankruptcy last week.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia, who covers the Vancouver Giants, writes that “a WHL general manager, who requested anonymity, says he expects a ‘lineup’ of interested buyers for the Winterhawks . . .”

Yes, the vultures will be circling.

The last WHL franchise to have changed hands was the Seattle Thunderbirds.

One source who knows his way around the WHL told Taking Note on Tuesday: “Bet Russ Farwell is patting himself on the back . . .”

Farwell was the Thunderbirds’ governor and general manager, and also owned a piece of the action when that deal went down in 2017.

Here’s Ewen:

“WHL teams don’t change hands often and sale prices are rarely made public, as you’d expect. The Seattle Thunderbirds were sold in October of 2017, going from a group led by longtime Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell to brothers Dan and Lindsey Leckelt, who own Silent-Aire, an engineering and data centre equipment manufacturing company based in Edmonton.

“Multiple sources say the Thunderbirds were sold for US$12 million. That’s never been confirmed.”

Ewen’s complete piece is right here.

Six months before the Thunderbirds changed hands, the Chynoweth family sold the Kootenay Ice to Winnipeggers Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell. After two winters in Cranbrook, they moved the franchise to Winnipeg immediately after the 2018-19 season.

The Regina Pats were sold in April 2014 with Russ and Diane Parker of Calgary, who had owned the franchise for 19 years, selling to a local group comprising Jason Drummond, Todd Lumbard, Anthony Marquart, Gavin Semple and Shaun Semple. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the sale price “is believed to be in the neighbourhood of Cdn$7.5 million.”

In March of 2014, Rick Brodsky sold the Prince George Cougars to a group that includes local businessmen Ray Fortier, Ernest Ouellet, John Pateman and Greg Pocock, along with two former Cougars defencemen — Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis. The sale price was reported by the Prince George Citizen as being close to Cdn$7 million. Brodsky had bowed out of his family’s ownership of the Saskatoon Blades to purchase the Cougars franchise in 1992 when it was playing out of Victoria.

After owning the Saskatoon Blades for 37 years, the Brodsky family sold the franchise to Mike Priestner of Edmonton, who owns Go Auto, on Aug. 27, 2013. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported the sale price as Cdn$9 million.

On April 4, 2011, the WHL confirmed the sale of the Chilliwack Bruins by owners Jim Bond, Brian Burke, Moray Keith, Darryl Porter and Glen Sather to RG Properties, which was headed up by Graham Lee. He moved the franchise to Victoria where it operates as the Royals.

Bill Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks in August 2008, buying the franchise from John Bryant, Jack Donovan and Jim Goldsmith. The sale price was believed to have been about US$6 million.

The Kamloops Blazers were sold over the summer of 2007, with Tom Gaglardi, the president of Northland Properties and now the owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, partnering with former players Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor to purchase the franchise from community shareholders. The sale price was about Cdn$6.1 million.

So what will be the price tag on the Winterhawks?

Well, if this was four or five months ago, one might have guessed it to be somewhere around US$12 million.

However, in these pandemic times — I mean, can anyone guarantee when/if the next season will begin? — and with the franchise in receivership and the vultures circling, it just might go for something less than that.

Or could the WHL step in and purchase the franchise for a healthy price, if for no other reason than to protect the values of its other 21 franchises, and then try to find new ownership once we find out what things will look like when we get to wherever we are going?

These are bizarre times in which we find ourselves living and there are oh, so many questions, aren’t there?


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one a zinger from H.L. Mencken: “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

——

There have been reports that Vince McMahon, he of grapplin’ fame, is working to sell his football league, the XFL. If you’re interested, The Sports Curmudgeon has a few words of warning: “If you are thinking that it might be a hoot to put in a bid for ‘3 easy payments of only $39.95,’ let me offer a word of caution and suggest that you might wind up as the owner.”

——

One more thing regarding The Sports Curmudgeon . . . if you aren’t a regular reader of his work, you should at least consider taking a look at his Tuesday post. He tackled two questions: 1. What might sports be like in a post-COVID-19 world?, and 2. Are sports important with regard to (a) ‘return to normalcy?’ . . . It’s all right here.


Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said Tuesday that there won’t be any special treatment given to the NHL if it wants to use Vancouver as a hub for its proposed return to play. . . . “I’m not going to compromise safety for any organization, whether it’s the NHL or anything else, as much as I love hockey,” Dr. Henry said during her daily briefing. If the NHL is to bring teams into Vancouver, she said, all people involved with the teams and arriving from outside Canada would have to self-isolate for two weeks. . . .

The Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s largest annual fair, has been cancelled for 2020. It was to have been held from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 in Toronto. . . .

The California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) announced Tuesday that its schools “have determined that NCAA sport competition will not occur during the fall of 2020.” . . . This news came after the U.S.’s largest four-year college system, the California State University (CSU), announced most classes will be presented online in the fall. CSU has 23 schools. . . .

Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, said at a news conference on Tuesday that pro sports can resume in his state, without fans, as of May 16. He said leagues and teams would have to provide public health protections and follow guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control. . . .

There are 41 theaters on Broadway in New York City that are part of the Broadway League. They announced Tuesday that they will remain closed through at least Sept. 6, which is Labour Day.


When the Detroit Pistons were winning NBA titles, they were a fearsome aggregation of aggressive players. As Charles Barkley explained on Facebook: “Those guys were out there trying to hurt people. . . . When you were playing the Pistons you had to call home and tell your family you love them just in case you never saw them again.”


Aris Brown, the 18-year-old son of NFL great Jim Brown, who is 84, has committed to play lacrosse at Hampton University. As Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot wrote: “It appears that Jim enjoyed a strong fourth quarter.”


Sheep

Pandemic responsible for rash of WHL signings? . . . Co-owner: Cougars 1,500 fans a game from breaking even . . . Hanlon’s latest gig in German DEL

With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


After the Red Deer Rebels announced the signing of Arjun Bawa, a second-round selection in the 2020 bantam draft, on Thursday, Alan Caldwell, who keeps track of these things, tweeted:

“Bawa makes 15 of 22 second-rounds picks signed now. Add to 19 of the 22 first-rounders and that’s 34 of the first 44 picks from 2020.

“Five 3rd-rounders, one 4th and one 5th make 41 players signed from the 2020 draft already.”

And, as Caldwell also noted, the numbers “may actually be higher as some teams don’t announce signings.” (Note: There were more signings on Friday, too, with 21 of 22 first-round picks from 2020 now having signed.)

Whatever the numbers, I can’t ever recall a time when the WHL’s 22 teams signed so many players in such a short period of time. After all, the draft was held on April 22.

So . . . why the rush?

I had wondered if perhaps the WHL’s 22 teams were feeling more pressure than usual from leagues like the BCHL and USHL. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Two people with an understanding of the situation have told me that you likely can chalk it up to the pandemic. Unable to take vacations and with not a whole lot of other things on their plate at the moment, team executives simply have sped up the signing process.

And, no, neither Bill Gates nor 5G have had anything to do with it.



Wondering how much money the Prince George Cougars lost last season? Hartley Miller PrinceGeorgeof 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97 takes a look in his weekly Hart Attack column and it’s all right here. . . . On Tuesday, John Pateman, one of the team’s owners and the franchise’s president, took part in a virtual town hall with fans. At one point, he offered: “It’s been a struggle financially for the ownership group over the last several years. We’ve obviously lost a lot of money. I would suggest, last season, we were probably 1,500 fans short of paying all our bills per game, that’s without making the playoffs.” . . . Do the math, as Miller does in his column, and this looks a lot like about a $1-million loss. Yikes!


Married


Glen Hanlon is the new head coach of the Krefeld Pinguine of the German DEL. He finished last season as the head coach of DVTK Jegesmedvek in Slovakia. . . . Hanlon, 63, spent two seasons (2016-18) as the general manager of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants before going back to Europe where he gained considerable experience after spending the better part of four seasons on staff with the NHL’s Washington Capitals.


Paul McFarland has left his position as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs to take over as head coach of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. . . . McFarland spent three previous seasons (2014-17) as the Frontenacs’ head coach before joining the Florida Panthers for two seasons as an assistant coach. He then spent one season with the Maple Leafs. . . . In Kingston, he replaces Kurtis Foster, who was fired on April 29 after two seasons in the position.


Mike Rooney is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. Rooney, from Yellow Grass, Sask., spent last season working as a skating/skills coach with the Notre Dames Hound program in Wilcox, Sask. . . . Rooney replaces Kyle Adams, who was dismissed on Feb. 26. . . . Rooney is a familiar face in Saskatchewan hockey circles, but hasn’t done a whole lot of coaching. He was the GM/head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for two seasons (1995-97) and the GM/director of player personnel for the SJHL’s Hounds (1997-2000). . . . He also has considerable experience as an NHL and WHL scout.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x × y is less than y.”


Banjo


Oliver David of the Dubuque Fighting Saints has been named the USHL’s coach of the year for 2019-20. The Fighting Saints had the USHL’s best defensive record en route to finishing second in the overall standings. . . . Oliver spent one season (2016-17) as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, where he worked alongside general manager and head coach Mike Johnston. . . . You have to admit that Johnston’s managerial coaching tree is looking rather impressive. It includes Garry Davidson, the general manager of the Everett Silvertips; Matt Bardsley, the GM of the Kamloops Blazers and the Western Conference’s executive of the year; Grant Armstrong and Josh Dye, who both have gone on to scout with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning; Karl Taylor, the head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals; and Travis Green, the head coach of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. . . . It is somewhat interesting that Johnston, despite Portland being one of the WHL’s premier franchises, has never been saluted as executive or coach of the year. The Winterhawks are the reigning Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy holders as regular-season champions.



The B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame has cancelled its 2020 induction dinner that was to have been held in Penticton on July 24. It is expected that the 2020 inductees will be installed in the Hall of Fame at a celebration in the summer of 2021. The class features players Eric Brewer and Mattias Ohlund, official Jay Sharrers, builder Ray Stonehouse, and two teams — the 2002 Kootenay Ice and 2012 Penticton Vees.


The West Coast League says it still hopes to play baseball this season, despite the fact that five of its 12 teams have said they aren’t able to play because of restrictions having been placed on facilities by health officials and the fact that the U.S.-Canada border remains closed. That includes the Kelowna Falcons and Victoria HarbourCats, the league’s two Canadian franchises. Also out are the Bellingham Bells, Bend Elks and Corvallis Knights. . . . The WCL’s regular season was to have started on June 5. In a news release, the league said it now is “targeting early July for the return of baseball to our member cities.” . . . The WCL’s other franchises are located in Portland the Washington communities of Longview (Cowlitz Black Bears), Port Angeles, Ridgefield, Walla Walla and Yakima. . . .

Baseball Alberta announced on Friday that it has cancelled all sanctioned events and activities through Aug. 31. . . . The senior Red Deer Riggers immediately tweeted that their season was over, but they are looking forward to 2021 when they are to be the host team for nationals.


Grandma

Sign stealing in the WHL? Yes, it happened . . . Not watching The Twilight Zone here . . .

It wasn’t quite the Houston Astros, but it turns out that the Kamloops Blazers were involved in the sign-stealing racket in the spring of 1998.

They were in the early stages of a first-round playoff series with the Prince George Kamloops1Cougars when the accusations started flying.

It seems the Cougars were of the opinion that Garnet Stevenson, the Blazers’ backup goaltender, was spying on Prince George head coach Ed Dempsey and his line calls.

“As Dempsey called out the next line combination,” I wrote in the Regina Leader-Post on March 28, 1998, “the Cougars felt that Stevenson was taking it all in and getting that information to Kamloops head coach Marc Habscheid.

“So, for Game 4, the Cougars had enforcer Richard Peacock stand at the end of the bench PrinceGeorgenearest the Blazers’ bench. His job was to screen out Stevenson’s view of Dempsey.”

According to Jim Swanson, then the sports editor of the Prince George Citizen: “Peacock, who also helped by opening the gate for teammates, stood next to Stevenson, talking to him and reminding the goaltender the Cougars knew about the Kamloops spy job. Early in Game 4, Habscheid kept looking for Stevenson for a hint of what the Cougars were planning but he had nothing to report.”

The Blazers won Games 3 and 4 — 5-3 and 2-1 — to take a 3-1 series lead. Prince George then won two straight, 4-1 at home and 4-3 in OT on the road, to force a Game 7, which it won, 2-1, at home.

As for the sign-stealing accusations, Stevenson told me via email this week: “The story was 100 per cent true.”


We were watching an episode of Hogan’s Heroes (so sue me) on Tuesday night when a promo came on for The Twilight Zone. Hey, you know the music . . .

Dorothy: We’re not watching that!

Me: Why not?

Dorothy: Because we’re living in The Twilight Zone right now.

Me: Hard to argue with that kind of reasoning.


Quarantine


As had been anticipated, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has cancelled Wimbledon for 2020. Not postponed. Cancelled. . . . The tournament first was held in 1877. Prior to this, only the First and Second World Wars had kept it off the tennis calendar. . . . It was to have been held from June 29 through July 12. . . . The 2021 tournament is scheduled for June 28 through July 11. . . . At the same time, the ATP and WTA announced that all of their events have been cancelled through July 13. So that takes care of the grass-court season. . . . With Wimbledon gone, the first major the season is scheduled to be the U.S. Open, which is to begin on Aug. 31. For now. . . .

The Queen’s Plate, which was to have run at Woodbine on June 27, is expected to be postponed indefinitely. . . . The race dates to 1860 and is the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. . . .Earlier, Woodbine Entertainment postponed the start of its thoroughbred season, as well as the harness racing season at Mohawk Park. . . .

According to Golf Digest, the R&A is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it has cancelled the 2020 Open Championship (aka the British Open). The tournament was to begin on July 16 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club. . . . The Golf Digest story is right here. . . .


The NFL, meanwhile, is steaming towards the start of its 2020 season early in September. A schedule is to be released around May 9. . . . On a Tuesday conference call, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said: “All of our discussions, all of our focus, has been on a normal, traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums and going through a full 16-game regular season and a full set of playoffs. That’s our focus.” . . . But as The Sports Curmudgeon points out, it was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who knows a thing or two about this pandemic, who noted: “We don’t set the timetable; the virus sets the timetable.” . . .



The Ottawa Senators have announced that four more people from their organization have tested positive for the coronavirus. They now have had seven people test positive, all of them having been part of the group that travelled to California and returned to Ottawa on a chartered flight on March 12. All told, five players and one staff member have tested positive, along with broadcaster Gord Wilson. According to the Senators, the five players and staff member all have recovered. . . . Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has more right here.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and often the eye is glass.”



Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet posted his weekly 31 Thoughts on Wednesday and, as usual, there is some neat stuff here. Especially good is the latter part of the piece where he pays tribute to a number of young players who weren’t able to complete their seasons, including WHLers Jadon Joseph and the Warm twins, Beck and Will. . . . It’s all right here.


The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have added Craig Carter to their staff as assistant general manager and director of player personnel. . . . Carter, who is from Langley, B.C., was the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ director of hockey operations last season after spending two seasons as a scout with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.


Memorial Cup in June? Who knows? . . . Gallivan, Irvin stand test of time. Oh, do they! . . . Social distancing is the thing


The Memorial Cup, a four-team tournament for the CHL championship, is scheduled for Kelowna, May 22-31. If it is held, the tournament will include the host Rockets and the OHL, QMJHL and WHL champions. . . . Bob McKenzie, the godfather of TSN’s Insiders, reported Thursday that the Rockets “have secured the ice for June if the Memorial Cup needs to be moved back a month. And they’re also working on hotel blocks just in case. No one is necessarily optimistic but all options are still on the table for the Memorial Cup.” . . .

Interestingly, as is noted in the tweet below from Kevin Shaw, the first game of the 1919 Memorial Cup — the first time the trophy was contested — was played on March 19, 1919.



Not many, if any, WHL players appear to have been made available to the media since the league shut down on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kamloops Blazers, though, made captain Zane Franklin available for a chat with Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week. Franklin, who was busy helping Mom bake cookies on the family’s farm, was, well, frank as he usually is during the conversation, even explaining that he and his teammates “were all a little worried because we were in that area where it was getting bad” during a road swing into Washington state a few days before the shut down. “It was kind of nerve-racking, but we saw we were healthy, so were weren’t too worried after that. I’m as healthy as I can be.” . . . The whole piece is right here.


Irvin 2
On a cool day in November 1988, Dick Irvin (right) tells me about growing up in central Regina. (Photo: Patrick Pettit/Regina Leader-Post)

If you were like me on Thursday afternoon, you were flipping channels and stumbled the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders playing Game 6 of the 1983 Prince of Wales Conference final on Sportsnet. . . . The Islanders, behind four goals from Mike Bossy, beat the visiting Bruins, 8-4, to win the series, 4-2. . . . Oh, the 30 minutes I was able to watch were glorious. . . . The great Danny Gallivan calling the play and the observant Dick Irvin providing colour/analysis from right beside him. It was glorious. . . . Of course, you notice the all-white boards and a playing surface interrupted only by lines necessary for the game to be played. . . . There were a handful of players without helmets, and Butch Goring of the Islanders wearing his infamous Spaps helmet. . . . The goaltenders — Billy Smith of the Islanders and Pete Peeters of the Bruins — looked to be half of the size of today’s behemoths. . . . And, well, I’m thinking that today’s players, on the whole, are much better skaters than those from days of yore. . . . BTW, the Islanders also got goals from Goring, Brent Sutter, Bryan Trottier and Wayne Merrick. . . . Rick Middleton, with two, Craig MacTavish and Ray Bourque scored for the Bruins. . . .

Hearing Irvin’s voice brought back memories of a cool November day in 1988 when he visited Regina while promoting his book, Now Back To You Dick. Leader-Post photographer Patrick Pettit, sports writer Rob Vanstone and I met Irvin in central Regina and we strolled around the neighbourhood in which Irvin had spent his childhood. . . . “I don’t get teary-eyed or sentimental thinking about Regina,” Irvin said at the time. “I still come back. It’s not like I’ve been away 20 years.” . . . Irvin, then 56, had moved to Montreal in 1951. His father, Dick Sr., spent 27 seasons as an NHL coach — 14 with the Canadiens. . . . The family home, built by Dick Sr. in 1921, had been demolished in 1985. By the time we visited the area, there wasn’t any sign of the pigeons, chickens and show dogs that had been raised in the backyard. . . . “I’m glad I wasn’t walking down the street when the wreckers came in,” Irvin said.



Not only has the Winnipeg-based Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League cancelled the remainder of its season, but, as Kelly Moore of radio station CJOB reports, it has had to postpone its 50th anniversary gala and awards dinner that was scheduled for May 13. . . . Moore reported that the decision to end the season came “moments before last Thursday’s opening game of the MMJHL McKenzie Cup playoffs between the St. Vital Victorias and Fort Garry/Fort Rouge Twins at the St. Vital Arena.” According to Moore: “The players had actually warmed up, on-ice officials were ready to go, and fans were in the stands when both teams were advised the game was not going to be played.”



If your are a follower of the PGA Tour, you should know that the next scheduled stop is the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, May 21-24. . . . The first major of the season, now that the Masters has been bumped, is the U.S. Open that is scheduled for Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., June 18-21.



Hey, I don’t know where the puck is, but I’m thinking these are the hottest sweaters I saw this hockey season. Yikes, these are good!

Scattershooting on a Saturday night as WHL players head for home . . .

Scattershooting

SOME DOTS AND THOUGHTS AS WE WAIT THIS THING OUT . . .

A couple of hours after the above tweet was posted, the Kamloops Blazers announced that they “have released their players to return home immediately.”

“We will have all players return to Kamloops at an undetermined time,” the statement read.

It wasn’t long after that until the Prince George Cougars and Everett Silvertips said they, too, were allowing players to return to their homes.

The Cougars said they “have decided to send players home to their families until further notice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Silvertips, according to a tweet from Josh Horton of the Everett Herald, are sending players home Sunday morning. As well, there were indications on social media that the Spokane Chiefs and Winnipeg Ice are doing the same.

However, there was nothing official from the WHL as of late Saturday night.

Look, the way things are shaping up “undetermined time” and “until further notice” may well turn out to be late August, just in time for training camp prior to the 2020-21 season.

Hey, if you are being honest and assuming you have been paying attention to the spread of the COVID-19 virus and all the numbers associated with that, you might be starting to realize that this mess isn’t anywhere near close to a conclusion. . . .

——

The WHL’s board of governors apparently is scheduled to chat on Tuesday. If that’s the case, it is time for them to cancel their season and do all they can to get players back to their families. Hey, billet families are wonderful, they really are, but this league is full of teenagers, some of them as young as 16, who should be with their real families until all of this blows over. . . . So scrub the season and start hoping that things will be better in time to open training camps in August. . . . On second thought, do it today. . . .


On Saturday, the ECHL announced that it has ended its season. “This decision allows our players the opportunity to return to their homes and removes the uncertainty that currently exists,” the ECHL said in a statement. . . . The ECHL is the first North American professional league to cancel its season. . . .


The world mixed and world senior curling championships have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Kelowna, April 18-25. . . . The Memorial Cup is scheduled for Kelowna, May 21-31. . . .

ICYMI, the world men’s curling championship also has been cancelled. It was to have been held in Glasgow, from March 28 through April 5. . . .



Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Now March Madness is cancelled. No, let me rephrase that: The NCAA basketball tournaments are cancelled. We’re LIVING in March Madness.” . . .


Tom Brady, at the age of 42, isn’t yet ready to stop playing football. Of course, as comedian Argus Hamilton pointed out via Twitter: “He’s 35 years too young to run for president.” . . .


One supposes that you have to be ready just in case they come for the toilet paper . . .


All those people standing in line to buy toilet paper . . . are those the same people who complain about being third in line at a cash register during normal times? . . .


Are you tired of doing jigsaw puzzles yet? Is there anything worse than putting out 1,000 pieces before getting started on putting it together? . . .


Headline at TheOnion.com: Orioles suggest that MLB maybe consider cancelling entire season just to be safe. . . .



Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “The saddest part about MLB prematurely shutting down spring training? Our gritty young Mariners, at 6-12, were still mathematically alive to win the Cactus League championship.” . . .

——

One more from Perry: “One of the best ways to avoid catching the coronavirus, health officials say, is to avoid touching your own face. Lots of luck trying to break a third-base coach of that nasty habit.” . . .


Wash your hands and stay safe out there.

Scattershooting on a Thursday night while waiting to steal the first signs of spring . . .

Scattershooting

ESPN continues to use Jessica Mendoza as a baseball analyst despite her being on the payroll of the New York Mets as a baseball operations special adviser. Of course, that is a conflict of interest, something that was very much in evidence on Thursday as Mendoza chose to speak out on at least three ESPN programs about the cheating scandal that has enveloped MLB.  . . . She pointed a finger at pitcher Mike Fiers, now of the Oakland A’s, for going public, something that sparked MLB’s investigation. Mendoza later tried to backtrack, but the genie was out of the bottle and her credibility has since taken a terrible beating, as it should have. . . . The Mets, of course, found themselves hip deep in it because their new manager, Carlos Beltran, was involved in the cheating while playing for the Astros. On Thursday, the Mets and Beltran parted company before he had managed even one game. While Beltran may be gone, Mendoza continues to cash cheques from ESPN and the Mets.


Astros


It was on Jan. 4 when former WHL player/assistant coach Kevin Sawyer, now a broadcaster for TSN on games involving the Winnipeg Jets, related a story involving a hazing. Sawyer, then an assistant coach with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, talked of Saran-wrapping a 15-year-old Jared Spurgeon to a pillar in an arena. Spurgeon wsa “about six feet up in the air . . . he was tiny,” Sawyer said. “He looked like he was 12.” . . . Paul Friesen, a columnist with the Winnipeg Sun, has some questions about all of this but has discovered a cone of silence seems to have been placed over everyone involved. Friesen, however, was able to speak with Akim Aliu, who is no stranger to hazing incidents. . . . Friesen’s column is right here.



A tip of the Taking Note fedora to a pair of WHL teams — the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals. . . . The Cougars announced on Thursday that they now are making sensory kits available at all home games. From a news release: “In partnership with AutismBC, the Cougars have purchased sensory kits that will be loaned out to families, at no cost, that have sensory issues. The sensory kit includes protective earmuffs, colouring book, crayons, ear plugs, sunglasses, and several different fidget / stress items.” . . .

Meanwhile, the Royals, with their home city and environs hit with some ugly weather, are rewarding fans who were able to get to their Wednesday game and ticket holders who couldn’t make it with freebies for a future game. . . . The Royals announced attendances of 2,519 and 2,901 for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, as they swept the Tri-City Americans, 3-1 and 6-1. However, it’s believed the miserable weather limited the actual attendance at each game to much closer to 1,000 people.


Christmas


The AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons fired Bob Beatty, their general manager and head OilBaronscoach, on Tuesday. Beatty, a veteran of the junior A coaching scene, was in his first season with the Oil Barons, who were 15-27-2 and in seventh place in the North Division in what is clearly a rebuilding/reloading season. . . . Mike Brodeur and Justin Rose, the team’s assistant coaches, ran things on an interim basis for a couple of days. . . . On Thursday, the Oil Barons announced that Gord Thibodeau had returned to the organization as GM and head coach. He had filled both positions with the Oil Barons for 11 seasons (2003-14). . . . Thibodeau is the winningest coach in AJHL history, having put up number 833 in February 2017 while with the Whitecourt Wolverines. He and the Wolverines parted company shortly after he put up that victory. . . . Thibodeau also has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on four separate occasions since 1989, most recently in 2016.


Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press tweeted Wednesday that F Connor McLennon wpgicewill be out of the Winnipeg Ice’s lineup for up to eight weeks with a broken collarbone. . . . McLennon was injured Tuesday night in a 5-1 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars. He leads the Ice in goals (21), assists (28) and points (49), all in 42 games for the East Division-leading club. . . . Interestingly, the Ice didn’t list its two 2004-born forwards — Matt Savoie and Connor Geekie — on the WHL’s weekly roster report. Savoie, who has five assists in 12 games, is out with a concussion; Geekie, pointless in seven games, has mononucleosis. . . . The Ice selected Savoie with the first overall pick in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, and took Geekie with the next selection.


After Seattle had its season come to an end on Sunday in Green Bay, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch offered some advice for young NFLers: ““It’s a vulnerable time for a lot of young dudes, you feel me? So, you feel me? Start takin’ care of y’all mentals and y’all bodies and y’all’s chicken. So, when y’all ready to, you know, walk away, you be able to do what you want to do.” . . . By chicken, of course, he meant money. . . . All of that got lots of play, and by early in the week you could visit his website (beastmode.com) and purchase hoodies and T-shirts emblazoned with “Take Care Yo’ Chicken” across the chests. . . . Yes, Lynch practises what he preaches.


Micro


If you watched the video of the battling goaltenders on Saturday night, you will have noticed Roman Basran of the Kelowna Rockets holding his right arm in a gingerly KelownaRocketsfashion after he and Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers got up off the canvas, er, ice. . . . Well, the Rockets listed Basran as out day-to-day with an upper-body injury on Tuesday’s WHL roster report. . . . Basran has been the Rockets’ No. 1 goaltender. . . . The Rockets (21-17-3), the host team for the Memorial Cup, are third in the B.C. Division and sixth in the Western Conference. . . . With Basran unavailable, the Rockets have added G Cole Tisdale, 17, to their roster from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. Tisdale, an eighth-round pick by the Rockets in the 2017 bantam draft, will back up Cole Schwebius as the Rockets visit the Everett Silvertips tonight (Friday) and then go into Portland for a Saturday-Sunday doubledip with the Winterhawks. . . .

The Rockets also have lost F Liam Kindree, 19, for up to two months — i.e., the remainder of the regular season — with a broken collarbone. He had surgery on Thursday. . . . As well, Kelowna F Nolan Foote showed up on the weekly roster report as being out week-to-week with an undisclosed lower-body injury. . . . Foote was injured in a 4-1 loss in Kamloops on Friday. . . . Kindree went down in a 7-2 loss to the visiting Blazers on Saturday. The Rockets were adamant that it was a second-period hit on Kindree by Kamloops F Jeremy Appelt that resulted in some late-game fisticuffs. Kindree was given a boarding minor on the play.


Here is Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice on the spate of NHL firings:

“It’s a very painful experience. It’s a very personal, yet very public, experience.

“I think this is the best analogy: You’re in a marriage, you love the woman but it’s getting a little bit rocky. Then you come home one day and she says ‘Paul, we’re going in a different direction and there’s gonna be a press conference in three hours and we’re gonna talk about how great the new husband’s gonna be.’

“So, it’s tough. You put your heart and soul into it and then you’re out.”


JUST NOTES: The Minnesota Twins signed 3B Josh Donaldson to a four-year deal said to be worth US$92 million. Donaldson turned 34 on Dec. 8. Hey, gang, it’s only money. . . . Of course, with Donaldson at the hot corner, the Twins now will move Miguel Sanó, who will be 27 in May, to first base. . . . Donaldson hit 37 dingers with the Atlanta Braves last season; Sano hit 34 in only 380 ABs with the Twins. . . . If you’re like me, you’re wondering: How much of Subway does Martha Stewart own? . . . Do the people who had a problem with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow smoking a victory cigar also have issues when championship teams celebrate by pouring beer and champagne all over the place? . . . A final thought on MLB’s latest cheating scandal: Is this a case of a business that has turned a blind-eye — wink! wink!! — to different kinds of cheating over more than 100 years finally having the chickens come home to roost? . . . The first pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 12.