Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering if QMJHL really is going to play without fans . . .

Scattershooting

——


The St. Louis Cardinals left for Chicago on Friday, but they weren’t in an airplane or even two or three chartered buses. Instead, the team used 41 rental cars to get them to the site of Saturday’s doubleheader with the White Sox. . . . St. Louis, which had played only five games this season and hadn’t played since July 29, went on to sweep the White Sox, 5-1 and 6-3, to improve its record to 4-3. . . . Remember that in these pandemic times doubleheaders feature two seven-inning games. . . . The Cardinals, who slipped to 4-4 with a 7-2 loss on Sunday, don’t have C Yadier Molina or SS Paul DeJong, who were among the 10 players on the roster who tested positive. . . . They also don’t have assistant coach Willie McGee with them. McGee, 61, who has high blood pressure, has opted out of the remainder of the season. . . .

Meanwhile, an unidentified player with the Cincinnati Reds has tested positive, resulting in the postponement of two weekend games against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. The teams had split the first two games of the series before Saturday and Sunday games were called off. . . . The Reds are awaiting news on their latest test results, which are due sometime today, before figuring out where to go now. They had been scheduled to open a series with the Royals in Kansas City on Tuesday. . . .

The 18 players off the Miami Marlins’ roster who tested positive during their outbreak have reported to Jupiter, Fla., the site of the NL team’s spring-training site. . . .


Steve Simmons, in the Toronto Sun: “A number of NHL general managers are expecting to play next season without fans in the stands and that will create some kind of chaos at the ownership level.” . . . The NHL has plans to open its 2020-21 season on Dec. 1.


Turkeys


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Michael Jordan, after becoming president of the Wizards, traded Laron Profit in retaliation for Profit trash-talking Jordan in practice during their days as Washington teammates. In a related story, rumor has it that Jordan’s TV set still has rabbit ears.”


Another report from Perry: “Seattle cut Kemah Siverand after the rookie cornerback was caught on video trying to sneak a woman — dressed in Seahawks players’ gear — into the NFL team’s hotel. That’s what you call disguising your coverage.”


The 18-team QMJHL says it will return to play on Oct. 1 but that there won’t be any fans qmjhlnewin attendance, at least at games in Quebec. . . . “Following our conversations with both the Provincial Governments and Public Health Agencies, it has been determined that the 2020-21 season will be played behind closed doors in Quebec, while details are currently still being discussed for the Maritimes,” the league said in a news release. . . . Training camps are to open on Aug. 30 with teams allowed to bring in 34 players. . . . With the league split into three divisions, each team will play 60 games without leaving its own division. . . . The league said it will release its playoff format in December. . . . Interestingly, the QMJHL operates under the CHL umbrella with the OHL and WHL. The OHL is aiming to start its regular season on Dec. 1, while the WHL is hoping to open on Dec. 4. . . . The WHL, however, is adamant that it won’t be playing without fans in the pews. . . . Keep in mind that the QMJHL season, including the dates of its open trading sessions, has close ties to the province’s education system. . . . The QMJHL’s news release is right here.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “Always drink upstream from the herd.”


The AJHL, which had hoped to begin its regular season on Sept. 18, announced Friday ajhlthat it is postponing things. But it didn’t announce another proposed opening date. . . . Instead, it says it will “commence the 2020-21 campaign with a development season beginning Aug. 31.” . . . From the AJHL’s news release: “Within the current boundaries of Hockey Alberta’s Return to Hockey Plan and Stage 2 of Alberta’s Relaunch, the AJHL is unable to enter regular season competition at this time.” . . . More from the news release: “The Development Season will meet the needs of both the League and its athletes by allowing teams to actively prepare for the upcoming season while providing players an opportunity for high-calibre training and development.  Training Camps will be permitted to begin as early as August 31st in all 15 AJHL communities and will run until the AJHL embarks on regular season play.” . . . The complete release is right here.


Aliens


With the Big 12 continuing to plan to play football this fall, nine players at the U of Oklahoma were revealed to have tested positive. Lincoln Riley, the Sooners’ head coach, made the revelation on Saturday. Riley said a couple of others players are in quarantine “due to contract tracing.” . . . The players had been tested after returning following a one-week break. . . . “We’ve done such a tremendous job this entire time,” Riley told reporters during a video conference call. “You know when (you) give players time, there is risk in that. This isn’t the NBA, we don’t have a bubble. We all have to continue to work to do a better job by all accounts. We’re still confident in the plan that we have.” . . . The Sooners are scheduled to open against visiting Missouri State on Sept. 12. . . .

Eli Johnson, Ole Miss’s starting centre, has opted out of the 2020 college football season. His father, David, contracted the virus in March and ended up on a ventilator before recovering. . . . The Rebels are to begin practising today as they aim for a Sept. 26 opener.


From Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “Hey, Lou Holtz: I’m no historian, but I’m pretty sure that when our brave soldiers stormed the beach at Normandy, they didn’t do it so you could have a job on TV spouting nonsense.”


The Buffalo News reported on Friday that Seth Appert will be the next head coach of the AHL’s Rochester Americans. Appert, 46, was the head coach of the RPI Engineers for 11 seasons before being fired in 2017. Since then, he has been USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program head coach. . . . In Rochester, Appert replaces Chris Taylor, who was 116-65-33 in three seasons with Rochester. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill was negotiating a new contract with Taylor earlier this summer. However, Botterill was fired in June and Taylor was among 22 employees who were swept out of the organization shortly thereafter.


Zach16

 

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, click right here.


If you’re a CFL fan, you will want to check out the work being turned in by Ed Tait, a veteran football writer, at bluebombers.com. . . . Tait, a longtime keyboard warrior with the Winnipeg Free Press, works for the Blue Bombers now and provides their website with a lot of great reads. Don’t believe me? Check out First & 10: The CFL’s U.S. Expansion right here.


With the Cleveland Indians thinking about changing their nickname, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald offered this tip: “I hear ‘Cleveland Baseball Team’ is still available.”


Avocado

Scattershooting on a Sunday evening while wondering if the virus will leave when cold weather arrives . . .

Scattershooting


With MLB having started exhibition games and with a 60-game regular season soon to begin, Ann Killion, an excellent sports columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle, sums up the situation:

“Who is going to get the coronavirus next? Where is the roulette wheel going to stop? What will the repercussions be for that player’s or coach’s family? Will the games have to abruptly end?

“A welcome distraction?

“Not likely. Not when we know that the baseball players we’re watching are each receiving multiple tests a week so they can play some games that will carry asterisks forever.”

Nail, meet hammer. Killion’s complete column is right here.



With rookies for the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs reporting to training camp today (Monday), a number of NFL stars took to Twitter on Sunday to question what is going on concerning safety procedures. . . . Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback, tweeted: “My wife is pregnant. Training camp is about to start. And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety.” . . . Nicholas Reimann of Forbes has more right here.


Cats


So . . . Sidney Crosby, one of the NHL’s few true superstars, leaves a Saturday scrimmage early and doesn’t return. Mike Sullivan, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ head coach, says: “We’re to permitted to comment.” . . . There isn’t a league anywhere in the world that does a better job of suppressing information than the GBHL — Gary Bettman Hockey League. . . . And the women and men who cover the GBHL better get used to this because I’m thinking it will be the new norm whenever the virus chooses to leave us.


It’s my understanding that the virus will go away once the weather turns cold.


The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported: “Lindsay Whalen, the Minnesota women’s basketball coach, says she’ll buy hot dogs for the first 500 fans at the Gophers’ home opener this season.” . . . To which Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times responded: “In a related story, Joey Chestnut just bought 75 tickets.”

——

Danica Patrick’s mouthpiece says that the former race-car driver and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers have visited Splitsville. Here are the aforementioned Perry’s thoughts: “Rodgers apologists claim he called an audible; her spinmeisters say they hit the skids.”


The QMJHL announced on Saturday that its plan right now is for each of its 18 teams to qmjhlnewplay 60 games in a regular season that will open on Oct. 1. Training camps will open on Aug. 26 with teams bringing in a maximum of 34 players, down from around 60 in previous times. . . . The league also will be split into three divisions and teams will play only within their own divisions, meaning 12 games against each opponent. . . . The QMJHL hasn’t yet announced a playoff format, nor does it know whether fans will be allowed to attend games. . . . The QMJHL features six teams in the Maritimes, who would play in one division, with the other two divisions comprising the 12 Quebec teams. . . . If you were wondering, the Quebec Midget AAA League says it will start its regular season on Sept. 11.


Curtis Toneff, an assistant coach with the Humboldt Broncos, has been suspended by the SJHL team, which said he “will have no further association” with the team until further notice. Toneff is facing an undisclosed criminal charge by the RCMP and is looking at a court date somewhere down the road. . . . Toneff, 27, is from Nanaimo, B.C. He joined the Broncos’ staff prior to last season after spending two seasons as the general manager and head coach of the junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.


Knife


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “The taxpayers are sending Congressmen on expensive trips abroad. It might be worth it, but they keep coming back.”


Headline at fark.com: Astros owner wants fans in the stands wo he can sell overpriced, watered down cold beer.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) has trimmed its Baltimore Orioles broadcast crew because of the pandemic, meaning play-by-play man Gary Thorne and analyst Jim Palmer won’t be on the air when things get restarted. Rick Dempsey, Brian Roberts and Gregg Olsen also won’t be taking part. . . .

Former MLB P Bob Walk, now a broadcaster with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is recovering after testing positive.

1B/DH Jose Martinez was on the field with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. He had been out while quarantining following a positive test. . . .

P Collin McHugh of the Boston Red Sox, who has had elbow issues of late, has opted out of the season. He likely was headed to the injury list, but will spend time with his family. . . .

Golfing great Jack Nicklaus said Sunday that he and his wife Barbara, both of whom are 80, tested positive in March. Jack had some symptoms into late April, while Barbara was asymptomatic. . . .

Brandon Banks, the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2019, said via Twitter on Sunday that he won’t play in 2020 if there is a season. A wide receiver and kick returner, Banks tweeted that “Idk what they gonna do but I won’t put on a helmet til 2021.”



Gregor Chisholm, a baseball columnist with the Toronto Star, after the Canadian government refused the Blue Jays’ request to play home games in Toronto: “This was never about the sport itself. The Jays got caught up in something much bigger than a game. This is about Canada wanting to continue to distance itself from a dysfunctional neighbour who seems to have lost touch with reality.”

——

So . . . why didn’t Jason Kenney, Alberta’s premier, invite the Blue Jays to play their home games out of Edmonton’s RE/MAX Field? It seats 9,200, but who cares because fans wouldn’t be allowed. Imagine the smile on Kenney’s face if he had the NHL and MLB in Alberta’s capital at the same time.

——

With the Blue Jays on the move, apparently to Buffalo or Dunedin, Fla., let’s check out the standings in the Strat-O-Matic simulation league. . . . The Blue Jays were shelled 12-1 by the visiting Cleveland Indians on Sunday, falling to 46-54 and leaving them 13 games behind the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays (59-41). The New York Yankees (52-46) are six games back in second place. . . . The other MLB division leaders — Cleveland (61-39), Houston Astros (65-33), Washington Nationals (58-42), Milwaukee Brewers (53-45) and Los Angeles Dodgers (64-36).


After organizers cancelled the 2021 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, wondered: “If the Rose Parade is a public-health risk not worth taking, would a Rose Bowl game played in the same venue make sense?”



Hook

Paddy in Disguise (With Glasses) . . . QMJHL aiming for Oct. 1 . . . Goodall talks Bedard


The headline in the Victoria Times-Colonist read: Paddy (The Phantom) Ginnell back in town.

It was Sept. 15, 1985, and the New Westminster Bruins were in Victoria for an exhibition WHL game with the Cougars.

Ginnell, a former owner, general manager and head coach of the Cougars, now was the Bruins’ GM/head coach. While he wasn’t behind the bench for this one because he was serving Game 1 of a five-game suspension, he actually was in the arena. At least for a few minutes.

Dave Senick of the Times-Colonist covered the game and wrote that Ginnell “had a false moustache pasted on his upper lip, a pair of sunglasses perched on his nose and a floppy cap pulled well down his forehead. A frumpy lumber jacket completed the outfit.”

It seems that Ginnell had planned on taking in the game in person, but after being recognized — gee, you think! — Senick reported that the veteran coach “stood by the Bruins’ bus and spent the afternoon chatting with those he knew from a past coaching job with the Cougars.”

Why was Ginnell suspended (and fined $500)?

It seems the Bruins and Seattle Thunderbirds had become involved in a bench-clearing brawl on Sept. 11 in Chilliwack, and Ginnell’s guys were deemed the first to leave the bench.

Bench-clearing brawls. Coaches in disguise. Yes, those were the days, weren’t they?

BTW, the above photo of Ginnell, in disguise, was taken by Ian McKain of the Times-Colonist.


The QMJHL, which unveiled a new logo on Monday, plans to begin its 2020-21 regular season on Oct. 1 with a schedule calling for each team to play its usual 68 games. Commissioner Gilles Courteau told a video conference on Tuesday that his league expects to have “a certain percentage of spectators” attending games. . . . The QMJHL opened its 2019-20 regular season on Sept. 19. The 18-team league has teams in four provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. . . . Courteau said the league is working on a return-to-play program and that it will continue to work through all of this with public health officials. . . . Later, some teams, including the Halifax Mooseheads, issued statements. “Although this is a positive announcement for all of us . . . we fully understand that there are still a number of factors to be determined and approved by our Provincial Government and public health authorities before we can begin selling ticket packages,” the Mooseheads said. “We are currently working closely with the QMJHL on a Return to Play protocol for the 2020-21 season in order to ensure a safe return for our players, staff and fans, that will be in compliance with public health guidelines.” . . . So, while the QMJHL is aiming for Oct. 1, it still is faced with a lot of unknowns, meaning the league is no different than anyone else.



Don’t shoot the messenger. OK?

Bartley Kives of CBC News wrote an interesting piece that was posted on the Corp.’s website on Sunday morning.

Here’s the headline: Never mind 2020 — It could be years before pro sports fans are back in the stands.

That is something I have been wondering about for a while now. Faced with an aggressive virus, no vaccine, and with governments, at least in Canada, who are reluctant to allow large gatherings in their jurisdictions, where exactly does the sports world go from here.

That sports world would include pro sports and, yes, junior hockey.

While the NHL, NBA and MLB likely could survive in the short term without fans in the stands, it’s doubtful that the CFL could make it. And there is no chance — Zero! Nil! Nada! — that junior hockey at any level could make it.

The CFL, like all leagues, is wanting badly to have some sort of season in 2020.

As Kives points out, “. . . the CFL may not be able to afford a year of failing to engage its audience. The CFL desperately needs real fans to buy tickets to games, merchandise, food and beer.

“The league could be holding out faint hope public health authorities will allow fans to gather in large groups this season.

“That is quite unlikely, given the highly communicable nature of COVID-19 and the potential for infection when thousands of people are gathered in a confined space such as a stadium concourse.

“It’s hard enough for public health employees to trace the contacts of a single infected patient who works at a Winnipeg Walmart or a Brandon trucking company.

“Imagine the complexity — if not outright impossibility — of trying to figure out who came in contact with one infected person among a crowd of tens of thousands at a stadium such as I.G. Field in Winnipeg or Mosaic Stadium in Regina.”

Kives spoke with Dan Chateau, an assistant professor of community health sciences at the U of Manitoba.

“Think about the Roughriders,” Chateau said. “They get people from all over Saskatchewan, and the Blue Bombers get people from all over Manitoba and from all over the City of Winnipeg, which is three quarters of a million (people) itself.

“You don’t want those people to go back to their communities and eventually spread COVID-19 again through each of their individual spheres of social contact.”

Kives followed that by writing this:

“This would not just be a problem this fall. It will be a problem for the CFL, NHL and any professional league as long as COVID-19 continues to circulate among the population and no vaccine treatment is available.

“This, unfortunately, means there may be no fans in the stands for CFL and NHL games in 2021, 2022 or beyond.”

As for a vaccine, well, you can read all about it right here, which is where you will find Kives’ complete story.

Just remember . . . please don’t shoot the messenger.



When you talk about the most under-rated players in WHL history, Rick Blight’s name has to be near the top of the list. Playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings, he put up 31 goals and 62 assists in his freshman season (1972-73). The next season, he totalled 130 points, including 49 goals, in 67 games. In 1974-75, Blight scored 60 goals and added 52 assists. . . . He finished his major junior career with 336 points, including 141 goals, in 201 assists. . . . Blight committed suicide in April 2005. . . . Ed Willes of Postmedia has more on Blight’s story right here.


The Kamloops Blazers have signed F Connor Levis, a first-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft who had committed to the U of Michigan Wolverines. Levis was the 20th overall selection in that draft. . . . He and D Mats Lindgren, who was taken seventh overall by the Blazers, had both committed to Michigan. Lindgren also has signed with the Blazers. . . . Levis, at 15, had 12 goals and 14 assist in 33 games for the St. George’s School prep team last season.



Glen Goodall holds one WHL record that won’t ever be broken. Over six WHL seasons, Goodall, now 50, played in 399 regular-season games. At 14, he was a regular with the Seattle Breakers in 1984-85. He played the next five seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Having played at 14, he can relate to what F Connor Bedard is faced with as he prepares to join the Regina Pats at 15. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post chatted with Goodall and the results are right here.


USA Hockey has cancelled boys’ and girls’ player development camps for this summer. From a news release: “USA Hockey cancelled the Boys Select 15, Girls 15, and Girls 16/17 camps on March 20 and on Monday cancelled the remaining camps that had been listed as tentative, including the Boys Select 16, Boys Select 17 and Girls Under-18 Select camps.”


Regular seasons all done for WHL, OHL, QMJHL . . . Will there be playoffs? . . . The waiting game continues . . .


The WHL announced on Wednesday that it has cancelled what remains of its regular season. When the WHL suspended play on March 12, the 22 teams had a total of 54 games remaining before the season was to wind up on March 22. . . . The 22-team WHL still is hoping to get its playoffs in “at a later date,” according to a statement. . . . The WHL’s final standings have been “determined by using win percentage” for its teams, reads a statement from the league. Actually, as TBird Tidbits pointed out in the above tweet, the standings were determined using points percentage. That’s how the Kamloops Blazers ended up ahead of Spokane, even though the Chiefs have one more point, and how the Vancouver Giants are ahead of Victoria, even thought the Royals finished with one more point. . . . No matter. The Portland Winterhawks finished atop the heap, so are the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy champions. . . . Even though the Everett Silvertips finished with one more regulation victory.

——

About those playoffs. . . . Last season, the WHL began its playoffs on March 22. They played four rounds, all best-of-seven, and finished on May 13. . . . In total, they played 80 games in about seven weeks. . . . Let’s be honest. That’s not going to happen this time around. . . . You can bet that the WHL is tossing around all kinds of playoff options, likely incorporating best-of-three and best-of-five series. . . . But in the end it’s going to come down to how much time there will be for playoffs. It could be that in Washington state and B.C., for starters, games with more than 50 people on hand will be taboo until mid-May. . . . And don’t forget that the Memorial Cup is scheduled for Kelowna, May 21-31. That is highly unlikely to happen, so how far can it be pushed back? And what about Sportsnet, the CHL’s television partner? How much room will Sportsnet have on its schedule whenever the time comes? . . . And don’t forget that if the CHL is into playoffs, the NHL will be, too. So how does all that figure into this? . . . With all that is going on, and not going on, perhaps it’s best to take a day-to-day or even a week-to-week approach. Just to help maintain sanity. . . . OK? . . .

——

Next up for the WHL is the inaugural U.S. prospects draft that is scheduled for March 25, and is to be run from the league office in Calgary. It’s a two-round draft featuring 44 selections, if each team uses its two picks. . . . The 2020 WHL bantam draft is scheduled for Red Deer on May 7. . . .

——

The OHL also cancelled its regular season on Wednesday, and announced that its 2020 draft will be held online on April 4. . . . The OHL’s regular season was to have ended on March 22. . . . Like the WHL and QMJHL, the OHL is monitoring the situation.“When it is safe and we may resume play, we will advise on the status of the 2020 playoffs,” a statement from the league reads. . . .

——

The QMJHL, which cancelled the remainder of its regular season on Tuesday, has taken its annual entry draft online. It was to have been held on June 6 in Sherbrooke. It still will go ahead on June 6, but now it all will be online. . . . As well, the QMJHL has cancelled its annual session that was scheduled for June 3-5. It features “meetings between its members along with hockey and administrative staffs.” . . .


Pub


The 16-team USHL announced on Wednesday that it has cancelled the remainder of its season. The league’s board of directors made a unanimous decision to end the season, including the playoffs. . . . The regular season, which was suspended on March 12, was to have ended on March 29. . . .


Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic reported Wednesday that The Hockey News has laid off eight full-time employees. “The layoffs affected longtime editor-in-chief Jason Kay,” Fitz-Gerald reported, “senior editor Brian Costello, managing editor Edward Fraser, senior writers Ken Campbell, Ryan Kennedy and Matt Larkin, features editor Sam McCaig and art director Shea Berencsi. Two contract workers are still producing content for THN’s website.” . . . THN publisher and owner Graeme Roustan told Fitz-Gerald that all will be rehired in an instant if/when the NHL resumes play. . . .



Philip Rivers is taking his arm to the Indianapolis Colts for one year and something like US$25 million. I wonder who will pay the moving expenses to get his wife and their nine children to Indy? . . . Rivers, 38, told us all a while back that he wasn’t interested in returning to the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers with whom he had spent his entire career. . . .


There was good news from South Korea on Wednesday as its top basketball league, the KBL, which hasn’t played in four weeks, announced that it has games scheduled for month’s end. . . . In the beginning, games will be played without fans in attendance. . . . If you’re curious about all of this, Jonathan Givony of ESPN has more right here. . . .


Pic


The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings announced the re-signing of assistant coach Jason Garneau, who spent eight seasons with the club a few years ago. . . . At the same time, assistant coach Colin Minardi, who joined the club in October, won’t be returning to the coaching staff. . . .


Cody Reynolds is the new head coach of the U-18 Red Deer Optimist Chiefs. He has spent the past seven seasons as associate coach with the Red Deer College Kings. . . .


Scattershooting on a Wednesday night while wondering if the QMJHL will ban fighting . . .

Scattershooting

If you are a baseball fan, you need to be aware of the website Alberta Dugout Stories. You are able to find it at albertadugoutstories.com. As a sampler, check out the story at this link right here, where Ian Wilson writes about a wily right-hander named Leroy (Satchel) Paige and others who toured the Prairies at one time or another. . . . This is really, really good stuff.



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has been giving up some of his time to watch XFL games. A couple of pertinent observations: “I do not like the fact that the XFL has doubled the number of sideline reporters doing the games; sideline reporters are as useful as a trombone player in a duck blind. . . . A big plus for XFL 2.0 is the absence of any cheerleaders.  They add about as much to a telecast as do the sideline reporters.”

——

The Sports Curmudgeon also had this observation, one that applies to hockey as well: “There is a broadcasting difference between dead air’ (very bad) and ‘announcers’ silence to let the scene speak for itself’ (usually very good). The announcers on XFL games need to shut up every once in a very long while.”


Chips


G Liam McGarva, 20, who won a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League title with the Revelstoke Grizzlies last season, has been suspended until March 11 by the SJHL. McGarva, who turned 20 on Feb. 17, now is with the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves. He was suspended after using his water bottle to squirt a referee, then, as he was being escorted off the ice after being ejected, shoving a linesman with his blocker. . . . Brady Lang of Saskatoon radio station CKOM has all the bases covered right here.


It used to be that Bruce Hamilton, the owner, president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, didn’t fire head coaches. And when one did leave, he always seemed to KelownaRocketshave an assistant coach poised to take over. . . . That changed when Dan Lambert left for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and Hamilton went outside his organization to hire Brad Ralph, who was gone after a 48-20-4 regular season and a trip to the Western Conference final. . . . Jason Smith, another outsider, was hired on July 6, 2016; his run ended on Oct. 22, 2018, with Hamilton saying that “we need to go in a different direction.” The Rockets were 4-10-0 at the time of the firing; Smith left with a 92-54-12 record in two-plus regular seasons. . . . At that time, Hamilton bypassed assistant coach Kris Mallette, this time hiring another outsider, former NHL defenceman Adam Foote. . . .

On Wednesday, Hamilton, whose team is to play host to the Memorial Cup in May, pulled 2020MCthe plug on Foote, and this time he put Mallette in charge, albeit on an interim basis. Foote leaves with a 48-49-12 record, including 24-26-4 this season. . . .

“The team has struggled since the Christmas break,” Hamilton said in a news release. “With 14 games remaining in the regular season, I felt a change was necessary at this time.” . . . He later told Regan Bartel, the team’s radio voice: “Part of success is being able to handle adversity and this group hasn’t handled adversity real well. That’s from playing scared to win, or scared not to lose probably is the better line. That’s what’s set in here a little bit. Hopefully, a new voice will change that.” . . . Except that Mallette isn’t a new voice; he is in his sixth season on the Rockets’ staff. . . .

The Rockets hold down the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Finish in the first wild-card spot and it likely will mean a first-round date with the Kamloops Blazers, who lead the B.C. Division. The second wild-card spot is likely going to get you the Portland Winterhawks in the opening round. . . .

Oh, and did I mention that F Nolan Foote, Adam’s son and the Rockets’ captain, is spending some time with the New Jersey Devils, who want their medical staff to check him over. The Devils acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Due to injury, Nolan has played in only four games since Nov. 30. He played a bit in a 6-5 OT loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Monday — the Rockets blew a 5-1 lead — but wasn’t able to finish. The Lightning had selected him in the first round, 27th overall, of the NHL’s 2019 draft. . . .

The 2020 Memorial Cup opens in Kelowna in 93 days.


Prisons


Still with fired coaches, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers have dumped head coach John Beilein after just 54 games; they were 14-40. He joined the Cavs prior to this season, after spending 12 seasons with the U of Michigan Wolverines. . . . Don’t cry for him, though — he had four years and more than US$16 million left on his contract when he left town.



It is pretty much agreed that CF Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is the best player in MLB. On Monday, he spoke to reporters about the cheating scandal that is eating up the Houston Astros: “It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming — it would be pretty fun up there.” . . . The Angels play seven of their first 10 regular-season games against the Astros, opening with four in Houston, March 26-29. . . .

BTW, word out of Vegas is that the over-under on the number of Houston hitters who will be hit by pitches this season is 83.5. . . . During the 2019 season, only 41 Astros hitters were plunked; the MLB average was 66.


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There are reports that QMJHL governors, who are meeting today (Thursday) may vote to ban fighting. I have no idea what steps the governors might take, but it’s about time. . . . It’s also more than past time for the WHL to follow suit. In this day and age, there simply is something wrong about charging admission for an event in which teenagers are allowed to punch each other in the face with bare knuckles and little in the way of consequences.

Keast first female for SJHL . . . Byram writes record in Vancouver . . . Gauthier, Wolf can’t be beaten

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The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves had a young woman — Taylor Keast — dressed and on their bench for a game on Friday night.

Keast was there in support of starting goaltender Jordan Frey.

All Frey did was stop 46 shots, including 21 in the third period, to record a 3-2 victory larongeover the visiting Kindersley Klippers.

With Thursday (Jan. 10) being the junior A trading deadline, as it was in the WHL, the Ice Wolves ran into a goaltending shortage. They dealt Daniel Davidson to the OJHL’s Burlington Cougars and added Brendan Benoit from the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings. However, Benoit was in transit so wasn’t available for Friday’s game. (Benoit was on the bench backing up Frey for Game 2 of the weekend doubleheader on Saturday, which was won by the Klippers, 5-2.)

Keast, 17, who plays for a midget team in La Ronge, is believed to be the first female to be in uniform for an SJHL game of any kind in the league’s history. The SJHL has been around, in one form or another, since 1950-51.

“It was pretty cool, I’ve grown up here, so when I was a little kid, I used to want to play for the Ice Wolves,” Keast told Braden Malsbury of mbcradio.com, who is La Ronge’s play-by-play voice. “It was fun, it was a really good experience.”

Shannon Szabados, a veteran of Canada’s national women’s team, made a total of 213 regular-season (2002-07) appearances in the AJHL — split among the Sherwood Park Crusaders, Bonnyville Pontiacs and Fort Saskatchewan Traders.

Szabados, who is from Edmonton, also got into one WHL regular-season game, playing 50 seconds with the Tri-City Americans during a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Giants at Pacific Coliseum on Sept. 22, 2002.

Szabados went in for starter Tyler Weiman at 4:10 of the third period. She didn’t face a shot, and left at 5:00 as Weiman re-entered the game.

Szabados, now 32, is playing with the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts.

Last season, Isabella (Izzy) Palumbo, then 15, started for the junior B Golden Rockets of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League on Jan. 20. At that point, the Rockets had two victories and one of those was a forfeit.

So head coach Jason Stephens gave Palumbo the start for a home game on Jan. 20, and she responded with 41 saves in a 7-4 victory over the Columbia Valley Rockies.

Before last season was done, Palumbo had gotten into three games with Golden, going 1-1-0, 6.00, .866.

Palumbo is listed with the Rockets this season as an AP, but hasn’t played.

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Gilles Courteau has been the QMJHL commissioner for 33 years, and he doesn’t think the time has come for major junior teams to treat players as something other than student-athletes.

“A player should never be considered as an employee,” Courteau told Douglas Gelevan of qmjhlCBC News. “We don’t want to give (players the) additional responsibility of an employee. We want him to play in the QMJHL and concentrate on hockey and school. Nothing else.”

This comes as major junior hockey deals with a class-action lawsuit that suggests, among other things, that players should be paid at least the minimum wage that is applicable in each jurisdiction.

Courteau feels that paying players in such a fashion might even lead to players dropping out of school.

He told Gelevan that he could see players saying: “We’re not going to school anymore because we’re working. We’re playing hockey, we’re getting money, we’re getting a paycheque on a weekly basis, we will think about school when we’re done playing major junior.”

Courteau added: “No. This is not what we want to do.”

The complete story, which touches on other topics, too, including the trading of players, is right here.

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D Libor Zabransky no longer is with the Kelowna Rockets. Regan Bartel, the radio voice KelownaRocketsof the Rockets, tweeted prior to Saturday night’s game against the host Prince George Cougars that Kelowna head coach “Adam Foote tells me d-man Libor Zabransky is no longer with the team. The 18-year-old has joined the Fargo Force of the USHL.” . . . Zabransky, from Czech Republic, had two goals and seven assists in 35 games this season. Last season, as a freshman, he had two goals and 17 assists in 72 games. . . . Zabransky’s departure means the Rockets are left with one import on their roster — Finnish freshman Lassi Thomson.

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SATURDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Brandon Wheat Kings opened up a 3-1 second-period lead and went on to score a 3-2 BrandonWKregularvictory over the Warriors in Moose Jaw. . . . Brandon (17-17-6) had lost its previous three games. It now is six points out of a playoff spot. . . . Moose Jaw (21-11-7) has lost four straight (0-3-1). The Warriors are third in the East Division, nine points behind Saskatoon. . . . F Brayden Tracey (17) gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead at 6:42 of the first period. . . . F Luka Burzan (24) got Brandon even by scoring on a penalty shot at 19:32. . . . F Stelio Mattheos (29) broke the tie at 1:14 of the second period, with F Baron Thompson (2) scoring the eventual winner, on a PP, at 16:57. . . . F Alec Zawatsky (14) pulled the Warriors to within a goal, on a PP, at 9:13 of the third period. That was his first goal since being acquired from Swift Current on Thursday. . . . Of note to number geeks: The Warriors had a 29-21 edge in shots and faceoffs. . . . The Wheat Kings got 27 saves from G Jiri Patera.

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F Parker Kelly scored twice and added an assist to help the Prince Albert Raiders to a 7-3 PrinceAlbertvictory over the visiting Calgary Hitmen. . . . The Raiders (37-5-1) have won two in a row. They are 19-3-0 at home, and lead the East Division by 17 points over Saskatoon. . . . The Hitmen (21-17-4) had won their previous six games. They hold down the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, four points behind Medicine Hat and six in front of Brandon. . . . The Raiders ended Portland’s six-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory on Friday night. . . . Prince Albert took a 2-0 first-period lead — on goals from F Ozzy Wiesblatt (9), on a PP, and D Brayden Pachal (11) — and was never headed. . . . F Riley Stotts got the Hitmen to within 2-1 at 8:21 of the second, but the Raiders stretched the lead to 4-1 as F Cole Fonstad (16) scored at 9:35 and F Dante Hannoun (20) counted at 10:40. . . . F Luke Coleman (12) scored while shorthanded for Calgary, at 13:15, only to have Prince Albert F Brett Leason (30) get that one back at 16:52. . . . Kelly, who has 20 goals, scored twice in the third period, while Stotts got his second of the game and 14th of the season for Calgary. . . . The Raiders had a 41-24 edge in shots, including 15-4 in the first period. . . . F Jake Kryski was among Calgary’s scratches. . . . D Loeden Schaufler and F Bryce Bader, deadline-day acquisitions, were scratched by the Raiders. . . . The Raiders will begin a trip through the B.C. Division in Prince George on Wednesday.

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F Brandon Hagel scored three goals and added two assists to lead the Red Deer Rebels to a 9-4 victory over the Pats in Regina. . . . Red Deer (25-13-3) has points in four straight (3-0-1). It went 3-0-0 on a trip into the East Division, with victories in Swift Current (3-2) and Brandon (5-3) as it played three times in four nights. . . . The Rebels are tied with Edmonton for second in the Central Division, one point behind Lethbridge. . . .  Regina (12-30-2) has lost seven in a row (0-6-1). . . . The Rebels scored the game’s first three goals and led 5-1 halfway through the second period. . . . The Pats got to within two in the third period, but the Rebels responded with three late goals. . . . Hagel, who has 26 goals, completed his fifth career hat trick at 14:03 of the third period for a 7-4 lead. . . . The Rebels also got goals from F Jeff de Wit (22), F Reese Johnson (19), F Brett Davis (14), F Josh Tarzwell (6), F Zak Smith (9) and F Oleg Zaytsev (8). . . . Davis and Tarzwell added two assists each for three-point outings. . . . Regina’s goals came from F Sebastian Streu (4), F Garrett Wright (3), F Duncan Pierce (5) and D Brady Pouteau (1). . . . The Pats celebrated Barret Jackman Bobblehead Night and, yes, the former captain was in the house.

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F Mason Mannek scored Portland’s last two goals as the Winterhawks skated to a 5-4 Portlandvictory over the Blades in Saskatoon. . . . Portland (26-12-5) when 5-1-0 on its East Division trip. It is second in the U.S. Division, 11 points behind Everett. . . . Saskatoon (26-13-6) had points in its of its previous three games (2-0-1) and had been 7-0-2 in its past nine home games. The Blades appear headed for a second-place finish in the East Division. . . . Saskatoon went ahead 2-0 on first-period goals from F Kyle Crnkovic (5), at 6:21, and F Max Gerlach, at 18:11. . . . F Seth Jarvis (12) pulled Portland to within a goal at 19:18. . . . F Kirby Dach (17) gave the Blades a 3-1 lead at 3:24 of the second period. . . . F Josh Paterson, who was acquired by Portland from Saskatoon on Thursday, then scored back-to-back PP goals, at 5:13 and 8:52, for a 3-3 tie. . . . Mannek followed at 16:19 by giving Portland a 4-3 lead. . . . Saskatoon tied it at 17:30 of the third when Gerlach scored his 26th goal. . . . Mannek, who has 11 goals, broke the tie at 17:30. He also had an assist to tack on to his first career multi-goal game. . . . Portland G Shane Farkas celebrated his 20th birthday with 35 saves as he won for the 25th time this season. . . . The Winterhawks again were without D Brendan De Jong (concussion), while Saskatoon remains without D Nolan Kneen (undisclosed injury).

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The Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s first three goals and went on to a 5-3 victory Seattleover the host Swift Current Broncos. . . . Seattle (15-21-4) has won three straight. It went 4-2-0 on an East Division trip that ended with four games in five nights. The Thunderbirds hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, one point ahead of Prince George. . . . Swift Current (8-30-3) has lost two in a row. . . . This was a meeting between the WHL’s last two championship organizations, the Thunderbirds having won in the spring of 2017 and the Broncos last season. Of course, this season they have combined to win 23 of 81 games, which shows that there sometimes is a steep price to be paid for winning championships. . . . Seattle got goals from F Sean Richards, D Jarret Tyszka (4) and F Tyler Carpendale (14) to go ahead 3-0 early in the second period. . . . F Tanner Nagel (6) got the Broncos on the scoreboard, on a PP, at 7:07 of the second p[eriod, but Richards, who has 13 goals, counted at 12:03 for a 4-1 lead. . . . Broncos D Matthew Stanley sandwiched a pair of third-period goals around one by Seattle F Andrej Kukuca (12) to round out the scoring. . . . Stanley has three goals this season. . . . G Cole Schwebius earned the victory for Seattle with 31 stops. . . . Seattle had D Cade McNelly back in the lineup. He served a three-game suspension then was scratched for two games. . . . F Tyler Smithies, who was acquired from Moose Jaw on Thursday, made his Swift Current debut. However, F Tyler Lees, who came over from the Victoria Royals on Monday, is out with an undisclosed injury.

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F Jordy Bellerive’s shorthanded empty-net goal turned into the winner as the host LethbridgeLethbridge Hurricanes beat the Kootenay Ice, 3-2. . . . Lethbridge (23-11-8) is atop the Central Division, leading by one point over Red Deer and Edmonton. . . . The Hurricanes are to visit Edmonton today. . . . Kootenay (8-29-7) has lost nine in a row (0-8-1). . . . All five goals were scored in the third period. . . . F Peyton Krebs (15) gave the Ice the lead at 3:08. . . . Lethbridge got the next three goals, from F Logan Barlage (11), at 5:23; F Dylan Cozens (25), at 7:56; and Bellerive (22), into an empty net at 18:33. . . . Bellerive’s goal turned into the game-winner when F Brandon Machado (3) scored, on a PP, for the Ice at 19:15. . . . G Carl Tetachuk stopped 29 shots for Lethbridge, one more than Kootenay’s Jesse Makaj. . . . D Chase Hartje, who was acquired from Brandon on Thursday, was in Kootenay’s lineup.

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F Vince Loschiavo scored in OT to give the Edmonton Oil Kings a 2-1 victory over the EdmontonOilKingsTigers in Medicine Hat. . . . Edmonton (23-14-7) has won two in a row and is tied with Red Deer for second in the Central Division. . . . Medicine Hat (23-16-4) had won five straight at home. It is fourth in the Central Division, four points out of third. It also holds down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, four points ahead of Calgary. . . . The Tigers took a 1-0 lead at 12:48 of the first period on a goal by F Tyler Preziuso (17). . . . Edmonton tied it at 11:19 of the second period when F David Kope (9) scored. . . . Loschiavo won it with his 20th goal of the season — his seventh winner — at 2:11 of OT. . . . Medicine Hat was 0-8 on the PP; Edmonton was 0-3. . . . The Tigers got 33 saves from G Mads Søgaard in his first start since he played for Denmark at the WJC. . . . Medicine Hat F Brett Kemp and Edmonton F Josh Williams, who were swapped for each other on Thursday, were in the starting lineups.

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G Taylor Gauthier earned the shutout with 20 saves as the host Prince George Cougars PrinceGeorgebeat the Kelowna Rockets, 4-0. . . . Prince George (16-22-3) has won two in a row. It had beaten the visiting Rockets, 7-2, on Friday night. . . . The Cougars are fourth in the B.C. Division, and have moved into possession of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, one point ahead of Seattle. . . . Kelowna (17-21-4) has lost five straight (0-4-1). It is third in the B.C. Division, seven points behind Victoria, which holds three games in hand, and three ahead of Prince George. . . . F Josh Maser (16) got the home side off on the right foot with a goal at 7:57 of the first period. . . . F Josh Curtis (7) added insurance at 1:08 of the second. . . . F Vladislav Mikhalchuk put it away with two third-period goals, giving him 15 this season. . . . F Ethan Browne drew three assists. . . . Gauthier, a 17-year-old from Calgary, has three career shutouts, all of them in this, his sophomore season. He now is 12-15-2, 2.94, .905.

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The Spokane Chiefs had eight players with goals and 15 with at least one point as they SpokaneChiefsdumped the visiting Tri-City Americans, 8-3. . . . Spokane (24-13-4) has won four straight. It is third in the U.S. Division, five points behind Portland. . . . Tri-City (21-16-2) is eight points behind Spokane, but also is in possession of the Western Conference’s first wild-card berth, nine points up on Prince George. . . . The Chiefs led 3-1 after the first period and then outscored the Americans 4-1 in the second. . . . The Spokane goals came from F Eli Zummack (12), F Luc Smith (18), F Cordel Larson (6), F Michael King (1), F Adam Beckman (18), D Nolan Reid (7), F Jake McGrew (18) and F Riley Woods (24). . . . F Jaret Anderson-Dolan had three assists for Spokane. . . . Tri-City got goals from F Riley Sawchuk (12), F Paycen Bjorklund (2) and F Parker AuCoin (22). . . . The Chiefs outshot the visitors, 48-26, including 20-7 in the second period. . . . The Americans scratched F Blake Stevenson, who turned 18 on Saturday, and D Aaron Hyman. . . . If you were wondering, Spokane head coach Dan Lambert turned 49 on Saturday. I know. I know. He doesn’t look a day over 35.

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D Bowen Byram scored two goals and added three assists to lead the Vancouver Giants to Vancouvera 7-4 victory over the Kamloops Blazers in Langley, B.C. . . . Vancouver (25-12-2) has won two in a row. It leads the B.C. Division by seven points over Victoria. . . . Kamloops (15-22-3) has lost four in a row, all of them on a road trip that concluded with this one. It is 0-12-1 in its last 13 road games. . . . The Blazers also have fallen into last place in the 10-team Western Conference, one point behind Seattle and two behind Prince George, which has moved into the second wild-card spot. . . . This was the Giants’ first home game since Dec. 16. In between, they experienced the Christmas break and a Central Division trip on which they went 2-4-0. . . . Vancouver is 3-0-0 against Kamloops this season, with all three games in Langley. Over their final 29 games, Vancouver will play Kamloops five times. . . . The Giants took a 3-2 lead into the second period where they exploded for four straight goals, with Byram drawing an assist on three of them. . . . Byram, who will be a first-round selection in the NHL’s 2019 draft, set a franchise record for points by a defenceman in one game. According to the Giants, the record had been shared by Jonathan Bloom (2005-09), Neal Manning (2007-12), Cody Franson (2004-07), Paul Albers (2004-06) and Kevin Connauton (2009-10). . . . Byram gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 2:32 of the first period, only to have F Jermaine Loewen tie it at 3:30. . . . The Giants went ahead 3-1 on goals from Byram (12), at 9:05, and F Milos Roman (18), on a PP, at 11:59. . . . F Travis Walton (1) got the Blazers to within a goal at 17:02. . . . The Giants took over in the second period on goals from F Justin Sourdif (10), F Tristen Nielsen (5), F Brayden Watts (10) and F Davis Koch (12). . . . The Blazers got their last two goals, both in the third period, from F Kobe Mohr (5), on a PP, and Loewen (14). . . . Roman added three assists to his goal, with Nielsen and Koch getting two assists each. . . . The Blazers were without three defencemen. Jeff Faith served Game 2 of a five-game suspension. Joonas Sillanpää drew a one-game suspension after taking a slashing major and game misconduct in a 4-1 loss to the Royals in Victoria on Saturday. Quinn Schiemann was scratched. . . . So the Blazers had two defencemen make their WHL debuts. Ethan Brandwood, 16, is from Victoria and is the captain of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League’s South Island Royals. He was a seventh-round pick by the Blazers in the 2017 WHL bantam draft. Trevor Thurston, 16, was a fourth-round selection in that same draft. From North Delta, B.C., he plays for the prep team at the Delta Hockey Academy.

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G Dustin Wolf stopped 29 shots to help the Everett Silvertips beat the Royals, 4-0, in EverettVictoria. . . . Everett (33-9-2) leads the U.S. Division by 11 points over Portland. . . . Victoria (22-16-1) had won its previous four games. It is second in the B.C. Division, seven points behind Vancouver. . . . F Zack Andrusiak (31) scored the game’s first goal, at 1:36 of the second period. . . . Everett put it away with third-period scores by F Justyn Gurney (1), at 8:10, and F Reece Vitelli (5), at 10:35. . . . Wolf now has four shutouts this season and eight in his career. On the season, he is 29-9-1, 1.82, .930. . . . In 60 career regular-season appearances, Wolf is 42-15-1, 1.96, .929. . . . Everett F Bryce Kindopp had one assist to run his point streak to 12 games. He has 18 points, including 11 goals, over that stretch. . . . F Kody McDonald of the Royals played in his 300th regular-season game; it was his fifth game since being acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders for whom he played 63 games. The other 232 were played with the Prince George Cougars. He has 177 points, including 84 goals.

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