CHL facing another potential class-action lawsuit . . . Most everything with WHL these days is fluid . . . Former WHL owner, GM, coach dies at 79

These have to be tough days to be the owner of a WHL franchise, don’t they?

The WHL is only a few weeks removed from the CHL, the umbrella under which it, the whlOHL and the QMJHL operate, having settled a civil suit for $30 million. In that suit, players, former and present, were, among other things, asking to be paid minimum wage under labour legislation in various jurisdictions. While not admitting to any wrongdoing or agreeing to pay minimum wage, the CHL settled, with insurance covering half the tab and each of the Canadian teams believed to be on the hook for more than $280,000.

And there is another WHL-related lawsuit before the courts, this one involving concussions, with the parties waiting to see if it will be certified as a class-action.

And another lawsuit dropped on Thursday, this one also seeking to be certified as a class-action. It carries the signatures of two former major junior players — Daniel Carcillo, who played in the OHL, and Garrett Taylor, who split a couple of seasons (2008-10) between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — and is looking for more co-signees.

This one could prove to be particularly ugly because, as you will see by reading this piece right here from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, Carcillo and Taylor are alleging that they were subject to abuse that is, to be honest, beyond description.

(BTW, you may recall that Taylor and his mother, Kim, were among those who appeared before an Oregon Senate committee on workforce on Feb. 27, 2018. They were opposing a proposed bill that would have exempted the Portland Winterhawks from state labour legislation. Ultimately, that request was denied.)

Geez, we haven’t even mentioned the hot mess that former OHL player Eric Guest hit that league and his old team, the Kitchener Rangers, with earlier in the week. The allegations, which included the forced ingestion of cocaine, are beyond messy, and the league, the team and the RCMP now are said to be conducting investigations.

And let’s not forget about the pandemic, you know, the coronavirus, COVID-19, and all that goes with that.

On Wednesday, following the completion of its annual meeting, the WHL issued a news release in which it said it “has targeted a start date of Friday, Oct. 2, for the 2020-21 regular season, but this date remains contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the six jurisdictions in WHL territory.”

Those would be Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., Washington and Oregon. To this point, the citizens of the four Canadian provinces have done a good job of battling this virus. As for the two states, well, let’s just point out that Canada has closed its border with the U.S. until at least July 21 for a reason. And Canadians, especially those in B.C., are pleading with the feds to keep it closed for a whole lot longer.

On Thursday, Ron Robison, the WHL commish, was on a Zoom gathering with various media types and it is obvious that a proposed starting date really is a moving target.

At his point, the WHL hopes to have a 68-game regular season, but . . .

It hopes to open training camps on Sept. 15, but . . .

It’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s all in the hands of the medical community and, as Rafferty Baker of CBC News, reports right here, people like Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, the province’s health minister, aren’t ready to commit to anything just yet.

Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week was on the Zoom call and his report is right here. . . . The word “fluid” appears on more than one occasion and for good reason.

How fluid are things?

Don Moores, the Kamloops Blazers’ president and chief operating officer, told Earl Seitz of CFJC-TV this week that the club isn’t even selling season tickets.

Moores explained: “We actually haven’t sold any season tickets yet. One of the things we don’t want to do is over-promise and under-deliver. It’s important for us to make sure that we know what we’re going to have and what that season will look like before we move ahead with that.”

As for the Winterhawks, who aren’t believe to be experiencing financial difficulties but are in receivership, Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune reported that Robison “said there has been a lot of interest in acquiring the club.”

Danzer’s piece is right here.


Earlier in the week, the University of Alberta stunned the Canadian sporting community by announcing it has cancelled the 2020-21 seasons for it’s men’s and women’s basketball, hockey and volleyball teams.

Ian Reade, the school’s athletic director, made the announcement, stating in a news release that “the Athletics budget is no longer able to support participation in the 2020-21 season.”

As The Canadian Press reported: “Earlier this year, the provincial government announced cuts to the Campus Alberta Grant and ordered universities to immediately begin balancing their budgets and reducing expenditures.

“Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a ripple effect on revenues.”

In April, the U of Lethbridge dropped men’s and women’s hockey from its program for financial reasons. Might there be more cuts on the way?

With two Alberta schools already having made moves, you are excused for wondering how things are with the U of Calgary, MacEwan U and Mount Royal U, the three other Canada West members based in Alberta.

Of course, it could be that there won’t even be basketball, hockey or volleyball seasons.

U Sports, which oversees Canadian university sports, and three of its four conferences announced last week that football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s field hockey and women’s rugby wouldn’t be played during the first term.

Canada West has said it will make a decision by Oct. 8 on whether basketball, hockey and volleyball will be played after Jan. 1.

Gerry Moddejonge of Postmedia has more on the U of Alberta story right here.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with a Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “Don’t gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don’t go up, don’t buy it.”


Robbers


You may be aware that the Buffalo Sabres’ owners staged a massive house-cleaning this week, sweeping out more than 20 people from the hockey operation, including general manager Jason Botterill. . . . Also caught up in the mess were two men with ties to the WHL. . . . Mark Ferner played with the Kamloops Jr. Oilers/Blazers. He also coached in Kamloops and with the Everett Silvertips. . . . Randy Hansch played with the Victoria Cougars and the Blazers. He later was the Blazers’ director of player personnel before spending 11 seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings, first as assistant GM/director of player personnel, then as general manager.


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching staff returned to the NFL team’s facility on Monday. By Thursday, one assistant coach had tested positive for the coronavirus, although he was asymptomatic, and was placed in quarantine. Two other assistant coaches also have bee quarantined.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S.’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, on Thursday that he doubts the NFL will be able to have a season without placing teams in bubbles much like the NBA has planned for next month in Orlando, Fla.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci said. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

The NFL doesn’t have any interest in the bubble format.

Dr. Allen Sill, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that “we do not feel it’s practical or appropriate to construct a bubble. Anyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return.”


Real Turcotte, at one time a WHL owner and coach, died Monday after fighting congestive heart failure. He was 79. . . . Turcotte was born in East Angus, Que., but made a real mark as a coach in the Detroit area. . . . He was the owner and general manager of the Nanaimo Islanders for their only season (1982-83). He took over as head coach when he chose to replace Les Calder during the season. . . . Turcotte was the father of Alfie Turcotte, who played with the Islanders and Portland Winter Hawks (1982-84) and was selected 17th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL’s 1983 draft. . . . There is an obituary right here.


The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League held its annual meeting on Saturday and revealed in a Wednesday news release that it is aiming for open its regular season on Oct. 2. . . . As with so many other leagues, however, that is contingent on a number of things. As the league said in a news release: “As has been the case since the league’s 2019-20 season was cancelled on March 13, all decisions related to Return to Play will be made with the health and safety of players, staff, fans, volunteers and sponsors as our top priority.” . . . In that same release, Jeff Dubois, the league’s commissioner, said: “There are still a number of obstacles for us to navigate ahead of resuming league play this fall, but I’m confident that we’re trending in a positive direction.” . . . The complete news release is right here.


Herman

Hansch, Hamilton, Marsh gone from Oil Kings . . . Heponiemi is finished in Swift Current . . . Blades, Ice sign draft picks

MacBeth

F Josh Holden (Regina, 1994-98) has retired from playing and signed a one-year contract as assistant coach with Zug (Switzerland, NL A). He will also be development coach for Zug Academy (NL B) and Zug U20 (Elite Junior A). This season, he had two goals and three assists in 19 games with Zug, and had nine goals and 19 assists in 31 games with Zug Academy, where he was team captain. . . . According to the Zug news release, Holden “has been living with his family in the canton of Zug for 10 years and is likely to receive the Swiss passport soon.” . . .

F Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current, 2016-18) signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Swift Current, he had 28 goals and a WHL-leading 90 assists in 57 games.


ThisThat

I have spent the past few weeks tinkering with three different blog sites.

If you haven’t already, please take a few moments to check them out, then let me know which one you prefer.

Here are the three addresses . . .

greggdrinnan.com

greggdrinnan.blogspot.com

gdrinnan.blogspot.ca

Let me know your preference by sending an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com.


The Edmonton Oil Kings will have at least three new faces in their hockey operations department when another season rolls around.

The Oil Kings will have a new general manager after revealing on Monday that Randy EdmontonOilKingsHansch is joining an as-yet-unnamed NHL team as an amateur scout.

At the same time, the Oil Kings announced that they have fired head coach Steve Hamilton, who had been in the organization for eight seasons, while assistant coach Ryan Marsh’s contract won’t be renewed. Marsh had been in that position through four seasons.

The decisions were announced by Peter Chiarelli, the president of hockey operations and general manager of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, who own the WHL franchise.

Hamilton, 44, spent four seasons as an assistant coach under head coach Derek Laxdal, then was head coach for four seasons. Hamilton took over from Hamilton when the latter joined the AHL’s Texas Stars as head coach.

Under Laxdal, the Oil Kings won two WHL titles and a Memorial Cup championship. Under Hamilton, the Oil Kings went 108-152-28, missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

This season, the Oil Kings had the WHL’s poorest record — 22-42-8.

Hansch, 52, had been with the Oil Kings since 2007-08, working the past five seasons as general manager. Prior to that, he was the director of player personnel and assistant general manager.

There has been speculation since the WHL bantam draft on May 3 that Kirt Hill, a former WHL player who spent this season as an amateur scout with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, will be joining the Oil Kings as director of hockey operations.

Hill played in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and Regina Pats (2004-08). He joined the WHL office as manager of player development during the 2013-14 season, then left to work for the Blackhawks prior to this season.

Derek Van Diest of Postmedia has more on the Oil Kings right here in a piece that includes some good quotes from Hansch.


There now are four WHL teams in need of a head coach.

The Oil Kings, of course, need one, having fired Steve Hamilton on Monday after he spent four seasons in that role.

Also needing a head coach are the Kamloops Blazers, Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos.

The Blazers are looking for a replacement for Don Hay, who has moved into an advisory role after four seasons as head coach. However, Hay, 64,  has said he wants to continue coaching and you would think he would at least get some consideration in Edmonton. Hay has more regular-season and playoff victories than anyone in WHL history.

Saskatoon needs a head coach after firing Dean Brockman following the end of its season.

Swift Current, which won the WHL championship, has to replace Manny Viveiros, who left the Broncos on Friday and now is an assistant coach with the Oilers.

When it comes to general managers, there are three teams looking to hire.

The Oil Kings are looking for a replacement for Randy Hansch after Monday’s announcement.

Also in the market are the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars. The Blazers announced earlier this month that Stu MacGregor had been reassigned to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars — Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi is the majority owner of the Blazers — while the Cougars parted company with Todd Harkins after their season ended.

The general manager in Prince George will inherit a head coach, Richard Matvichuk, who is going into the final season of his contract.

The Vancouver Giants already have a new general manager, having hired Barclay Parneta earlier this month. He replaces Glen Hanlon, who left the team after two seasons in that role.


If you aren’t already, you really should be paying attention to TSN where, led by Rick Westhead’s reporting, it is putting a spotlight on the NHL and head injuries. . . . It all has to do with the concussion-related lawsuit filed by a number of players against the NHL in 2013. It is mind-numbing to watch NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at his condescending best, and to read about some NHL owners denying having ever heard of CTE. . . . This is important to junior hockey fans, and owner/operators, too, because sooner or later a connection is going to be made, if it hasn’t already, between former professional players who are showing signs of CTE and head injuries they incurred in junior hockey. . . . The first of TSN’s five-part series is right here. There is video and a story by Westhead.


F Aleksi Heponiemi won’t be back for a third season with the WHL-champion Swift SCBroncosCurrent Broncos. The 19-year-old Finnish sensation has signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu of the top pro league in Finland. . . . This season, Heponiemi had 118 points, including 90 assists, in 57 regular-season games with the Broncos. Last season, as a freshman, he had 28 goals and 58 assists in 72 games. . . . In 2016-17, he was named the WHL’s rookie of the year after leading all freshmen in assists and points. This season, he led the WHL in assists and was named a first-team all-star. He also was named the CHL’s most sportsmanlike player. . . . Heponiemi was selected by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . The Broncos’ other import player is Russian D Artyom Minulin, who is eligible to return for his 20-year-old season.


Back in the day, the Kamloops Blazers were a major junior dynasty, something that was defined by their three Memorial Cup titles in four years (1992, 1994, 1995). The architect of all that was Bob Brown, who was fired as general manager a couple of weeks after the third title as the organization chose to go in a different direction. The Blazers, of course, haven’t come close to that kind of success since then, but what is Brown up to these days? . . . Tom Zillich of the Surrey Now-Leader checks in with Brown right here.

Here’s a thought . . . Zillich reports that Brown’s scouting contract with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers is about to expire. As well, Ken Hitchcock, who had considerable success as the Blazers’ head coach back in the day, doesn’t have a coaching job these days; he has moved into an advisory role with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . So you don’t suppose . . . Nah. Never happen.


The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Colton Dach, who was the sixth overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., he is the younger brother of Blades F Kirby Dach, who was the second overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . This season, Colton had 22 goals and 47 assists in 30 games with the OHA Edmonton bantam prep team.


The Kootenay Ice has signed three of its selections from the 2018 WHL bantam draft — D KootenaynewCarson Lambos, D Karter Prosofsky and F Skyler Bruce. . . . Lambos, from Winnipeg, was taken second overall. He had 15 goals and 25 assists in 30 games with the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy Nationals bantam prep team. He was named the CSSHL bantam league’s top defenceman. . . . Prosofsky and Bruce were second-round selections. . . . Prosofsky, from Saskatoon, had eight goals and 10 assists in 24 games with the Victoria-based Pacific Coast Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . Bruce, from Winnipeg, also played at the Rink Hockey Academy. He had 21 goals and 19 assists in 30 games with the bantam prep team.

The WHL’s 22 teams now have signed nine of the first-round selections from the 2018 bantam draft.

The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed F Dylan Guenther, the first overall selection, while the Ice (Lambos), Prince Albert Raiders (3. D Nolan Allan), Calgary Hitmen (4. F Sean Tschigerl), Saskatoon Blades (6. F Colton Dach), Lethbridge Hurricanes (8. F Zack Stringer), Tri-City Americans (14. D Marc Lajoie), Spokane Chiefs (17. D Graham Sward), and Edmonton (20. D Keegan Slaney),

The teams that have yet to sign their first-round selections are the Kamloops Blazers (5. F Logan Stankoven), Red Deer Rebels (7. F Jayden Grubbe), Prince George Cougars (9. F Craig Armstrong), Seattle Thunderbirds (10. F Kai Uchacz), Medicine Hat Tigers (11. F Cole Sillinger), Vancouver Giants (12. F Zack Ostapchuk), Victoria Royals (13. D Nolan Bentham), Brandon Wheat Kings (15. F Jake Chiasson), Red Deer (16. D Kyle Masters), Kelowna Rockets (18. F Trevor Wong), Portland Winterhawks (19. F Gabe Klassen), Prince George (21. G Tyler Brennan), and Moose Jaw Warriors (22. F Eric Alarie).


A tip of the Taking Note cap to the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves for hiring Mike Commito to fill the newly created position of team historian. . . . This is great news for a part of the hockey world whose history often is shoved into the shadows and forgotten. . . . “In anticipation of the Wolves 50th anniversary in the 2022 season,” the team noted in a news release, “the organization has created a new role to help capture the stories and memories that shape the rich Wolves’ hockey tradition.  From players and coaches, to fans and billet families, there are amazing stories that weave throughout the decades and who better to capture those stories than the team’s very first historian.” . . . That news release is right here.