Some questions and some thoughts as we jump into 2021:
1. When did so many people develop such a lack of respect for healthcare workers?
2. When it starts to snow, why does it never seem to know when to stop?
3. Taking Note doesn’t salute a team of the year, but if it did the 2020 award would go to the junior B 100 Mile House Wranglers. In announcing in September that the Wranglers would sit out the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season, team president Greg Aiken told Kelly Sinoski of the 100 Mile Free Press: “We’re concerned for the health of our community, just bringing 35 foreign bodies to our town is a risk. To me, that just doesn’t make sense with this pandemic going on. Who knows what is going to happen with the kids going back to school . . . I can guarantee there’s going to be a spike in cases. It’s not getting better.”
4. If you were wondering, the 2021 World Junior Championship really gets started in the Edmonton bubble on Saturday with quarter-final games.
5. The NBA season is off to something of a ragged start with blowouts and some horrid shooting — New York Knicks’ starters were 0-for-23 shooting threes on Thursday night. You wonder if that’s a precursor for an NHL season that will start about two weeks after training camps opened and without the benefit of exhibition games.
6. A “random thought” from Janice Hough, who is at leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “The NBA season is very young. But there appear to be some very bad teams. Wonder if the Washington Wizards could beat the Washington Generals?”
7. We are almost a year into this pandemic, so how is it that some people still can’t follow the one-way arrows on the floors of malls and stores?
8. So . . . that domestic terrorist who blew up part of Nashville the other day apparently was a believer in the lizard people conspiracy. Somehow, I wasn’t aware of the lizard people until The Sports Curmudgeon clued me in on Thursday. That conspiracy really does explain 2020, so I know that I will sleep better tonight.
9. I really do hope that you got to watch Kelli O’Hara sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir over the festive season.
10. “Rumour has it two members of the Red Deer Rebels believe in Santa,” writes RJ Currie over at sportsdeke.com. “The rest are Rebels without a Claus.”
I don’t know how your 2020 ended, but it couldn’t have been any better than Ray Ferraro’s . . . You can bet they’ll be playing street hockey at the intersection of Ferraro Drive and Allison Way, too. . . .
If you have some time on your hands for some entertaining reading, click right here and you’ll find Dave Barry’s 2020 in review.
Doc Rivers on being in Orlando,where some are walking around maskless like there's no pandemic:"I mean, listen, I don’t want to take a shot at any state, but my God yesterday, I was under my bed I was so scared. People are walking around like there’s nothing here. I’m surprised.”
The first three paragraphs of an editorial written by The Editorial Board of The New York Times:
“Look no further than the storied Rose Bowl game to understand the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s disingenuous and perilous posturing about the sanctity of its athletics programs while the coronavirus has ravaged the country and college campuses.
“Ignoring health officials who have deemed the annual playoff matchup too dangerous to be held on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., amid a massive spike in Covid-19 cases, the N.C.A.A. simply allowed it to move to Texas, where local officials are willing to let some 16,000 fans attend. It’s the worst kind of forum shopping.
“The N.C.A.A. likes to tell itself that it is in the business of educating students about the virtues of competition and sportsmanship. What it is showing them now by example is that some sports — the moneymaking kind — are more important than public health.”
And the last paragraph . . .
“Delaying the basketball season is the right choice. After a folly-filled football season, university and college administrators and the N.C.A.A. can show real leadership by putting the safety of their players and their communities first.”
These days, you may know Ray Ferraro as the analyst on some of TSN’s telecasts from the World Junior Championship in Edmonton. You may even
remember him from an NHL career during which he played 1,258 regular-season games and totalled 898 points, including 408 goals, with six teams. . . . But there was a time when he had the greatest goal-scoring season in WHL history. That was in 1983-84 when he was with the Brandon Wheat Kings, who had acquired him from the Portland Winterhawks with whom he had won the 1983 Memorial Cup. . . . The really interesting thing about that deal is that it was a one-for-five exchange and Ferraro wasn’t the one. The Wheat Kings acquired Ferraro, D Brad Duggan and forwards Derek Laxdal, Dave Thomlinson and Tony Horacek for C Blaine Chrest, at the time a 17-year-old prospect of note. . . . It’s not like Ferraro hadn’t scored in Portland. In 1982-83, playing mostly in a third-line role, he had 41 goals and 49 assists. A broken wrist meant that he only played 50 games. . . .
In Brandon, playing mostly on a line with wingers Stacy Pratt and, in the latter half of the season, Dave Curry, who was acquired from the Seattle Breakers, Ferraro struck for 108 goals in 72 regular-season games. What is mostly forgotten is that Ferraro finished with 192 points, then added 13 goals and 15 assists in 11 playoff games. . . . Add it all up and he wound up with 220 points, including 121 goals, in 83 games. . . . The figure that stands out, of course, is 108, because, for one thing, that’s a lot of goals. And for another thing, it will never be broken. I know, never say never, but in this instance that is a record that won’t be broken, if only because of the way the game is played today. . . .
This was a long introduction leading to a couple of stories that appeared in the Regina Leader-Post on Tuesday. Rob Vanstone of The Leader-Post spoke with Ferraro about his memorable season. . . . Ferraro, for example, remembers having scored 54 goals in 36 games by the time the 1984 World Junior Championship began in Sweden. He also remembers being disappointed, really disappointed, at not being invited to play for Team Canada. Of course, had Ferraro played for Team Canada he wouldn’t have scored 108 goals for the Wheat Kings. . . . Vanstone covers all that and more in this piece right here. . . . If you check out the photos that accompany that story, you will notice that it was a Cooperall season. . . .
Vanstone also took the time to chat with two of the goaltenders who were terrorized by Ferraro that season. . . . Doug Lunney, who was then with the Winnipeg Warriors, told Vanstone that Ferraro “was the first guy I ever saw who had the confidence and patience to slam the brakes on in mid-deke on a breakaway, then slide the puck in an open net after the goalie over-committed.” . . . Vanstone also spoke with Jamie Reeve, who faced Ferraro while with the Regina Pats. . . . That piece is right here. . . .
Ferraro broke the WHL’s single-season record of 96 goals that had been set by Brandon C Bill Derlago in 1976-77. At the time, Ferraro, who was a terrific interview, admitted the record pursuit was causing him sleepless nights.
I was at The Leader-Post at the time and wrote a lengthy feature on Ferraro that appeared in the paper of March 23, 1984.
“I tried to tell myself not to think about it because when you think about it, it’s just that much harder to get,” he told me. “It was just impossible not to think about. I’d go to bed at night — I really had a lot of trouble sleeping the last couple of weeks — and all I could think about was getting this record.
“I wanted to get it over with so I could get back to playing the type of hockey I should be playing. I noticed I was turning away from guys, trying for the poke-check and the breakaway.”
He also admitted that he was having problems comprehending his accomplishment.
“I can’t believe I’ve got this many goals,” he said. “I was coming here hoping to get 70 goals, not 38 past that. Man, that’s a lot of goals.”
Here’s a look at how many goals Ferraro scored against each of the WHL’s 13 other teams that season: Prince Albert, 10 games, 24 goals; Winnipeg, 12-21; Regina, 10-15; Saskatoon, 10-14; Lethbridge 6-7; Calgary, 6-7; Medicine Hat, 6-6; Victoria, 2-5; Kelowna, 2-3; Portland, 2-3; New Westminster, 2-2; Kamloops, 2-1; and Seattle, 2-0.
If you’re a WHL fan and have a Twitter account, you should be following John Winton (@NewWestBruins); Kevin Shaw (@theblueliner); and Victoria Cougars Hockey Project (@victoriacougars). . . . Winton posts all kinds of interesting things involving the New Westminster Bruins. . . . Shaw is always posting about Regina Pats’ history, including highlights of each date in franchise history. . . . The Victoria Cougars Hockey Project provides ample items involving that franchise’s history in the B.C. capital.
FWIW, on top of what has been reported about the QMJHL and KHL, COVID has touched almost every team in the USHL now. I’ve been told there have been more than 50 cases within one USHL program. Billet families having people over at American Thanksgiving, kids bringing it back, etc.
CBC News: Global deaths from COVID-19 top 1.8M mark: Johns Hopkins University.
CBC News: Air travellers entering Canada must have a negative COVID-19 test before arrival, Ottawa says.
CNN, Wednesday, 3 p.m. PT: 341,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Wednesday, 8:10 p.m. PT: 342,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
Ryan Struyk, CNN: The US coronavirus death toll will reach 396,000 by Inauguration Day, according to a new CDC ensemble model estimate.
Kate Feldman, New York Daily News: The United States hit another grim COVID-19 landmark Tuesday with its highest daily death toll since the pandemic started. . . . At least 3,725 Americans died Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker, more than 1,000 fatalities higher than the previous peak on Dec. 16. . . . More than 247,000 new cases were also reported Tuesday.
The New York Times: Roughly 60 percent of Ohio nursing home workers offered a coronavirus vaccine have refused to be inoculated, Gov. Mike DeWine announced at a news conference on Wednesday, citing anecdotal evidence.
The governors of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont have announced “an extension of the suspension of interstate youth hockey competitions for public and private schools and youth hockey leagues through at least Jan. 31.” . . . At the same time, “the prohibition will no impact interstate collegiate, professional or U.S. national team hockey activities, which will remain subject to existing health and safety protocols ard/or restrictions.” . . .
Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s top college football analyst, will work Friday’s Sugar Bowl — No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State — from home after testing positive. Interestingly, Herbstreit’s two sons, Jake and Tye, are redshirt freshmen with Clemson. . . .
Meanwhile, Greg McElroy of ESPN was to have worked on the telecast of the Cotton Bowl and the radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl. But he, too, has tested positive and will miss both games.
In the world of NCAA hockey, North Dakota was to have travelled to Omaha this weekend, but the doubleheader was postponed because of positives tests in the Omaha program. . . .
The Texas Bowl, that was to have featured TCU (6-4) and Arkansas (3-7), has been cancelled. It was scheduled to be held on Thursday in Houston’s NRG Stadium. . . . The decision was made “due to an increased number of positive tests and other circumstances within the TCU football program,” according to organizers. . . .
The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament that is held annually in Indian Wells, Calif., from March 8-21 has been postponed. The ATP-WTA event was cancelled last spring. Organizers are hopeful that it will be played at some point later in 2021. . . .
Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island, has died of COVID-19. She was 82 when she died in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Fred Ledlin said he was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a rookie in the Western League in the early 1980s. But 40 years later, he has found his voice. (Warning: Readers may find Ledlin's accusations very disturbing.) https://t.co/qRZ5SEFFP0
After 1.5 years of talking nearly every week, Jay is ready to share his truth. His story in both heartbreaking and encouraging. His vulnerability will help save lives and break down a stigma around sexual abuse that has gone on far too long. Part 1: https://t.co/o9gzJIdVLo#wfp
To add to this Marty-I had 50 goals at Christmas and never got invited to camp. Keep plowing ahead guys-respect the struggle to keep following your dreams, and climb over this bump in the road https://t.co/q15wENt8GK
With the 10 teams that are to compete in the 2021 World Junior Championship to move into the Edmonton bubble on Sunday, Team Canada made its final seven cuts on Friday at its selection camp in Red Deer, getting its roster down to 25. . . . The roster includes six players who won gold at the 2020 World Junior Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic: F Quinton Byfield (Sudbury Wolves), D Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants), F Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes), D Jamie Drysdale (Erie Otters), F Connor McMichael (London Knights) and F Dawson Mercer (Chicoutimi Sagueneens). . . .
The roster includes nine players from WHL teams: G Dylan Garand (Kamloops Blazers), G Taylor Gauthier (Prince George Cougars), Byram, D Kaiden Guhle (Prince Albert Raiders), D Kaedan Korczak (Kelowna Rockets), D Braden Schneider (Brandon Wheat Kings), Cozens, F Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg Ice) and F Connor Zary (Kamloops). . . . F Kirby Dach played for the Saskatoon Blades before cracking the roster of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks as an 18-year-old prior to last season. . . . Of Team Canada’s 22 skaters, only two aren’t NHL first-round selections. Korczak was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round in 2019, and D Jordan Spence of the Moncton Wildcats was taken by the Los Angeles Kings in that draft’s fourth round. . . .
Players dropped by Team Canada on Friday: F Mavrik Bourque (Shawinigan Cataractes), F Graeme Clarke (Ottawa 67’s), D Lukas Cormier (Charlottetown Islanders), F Greg Goncalves (Everett Silvertips), F Seth Jarvis (Portland Winterhawks), D Ryan O’Rourke (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), F Samuel Poulin (Sherbrooke Phoenix), F Jamieson Rees (Sarnia Sting) and D Donovan Sebrango (Kitchener Rangers). . . .
The tournament is scheduled to open with a Christmas Day triple header —Slovakia-Switzerland, 11 a.m. Pacific; Finland-Germany, 3 p.m.; U.S.-Russia, 6:30 p.m. Canada is to open its schedule on Dec. 26 against Germany at 3 p.m. Pacific. . . . There is a complete schedule right here. . . .
TSN also will show 10 pre-tournament games, starting with two on Dec. 20 — U.S.-Switzerland, 5 p.m. Pacific, and Finland-Czech Republic, 8:30 p.m. . . . Canada will play Sweden on Dec. 21, at 5 p.m. Pacific. . . . TSN’s pre-tournament schedule is right here.
Jonathan Habashi of the Drummondville Express reports that the city’s Marcel-Dionne Center, home to the Voltigeurs, “could be the scene of a bubble in the QMJHL” after the regular season resumes following the pandemic-forced break that now is in place. . . . According to Habashi, one scenario has five teams playing 12 games over a nine-day stretch. . . . Last month, seven teams spent 11 days playing in a Quebec City bubble. . . . More from Habashi, via Google Translate: “Other organizations, including the Saguenéens de Chicoutimi, have already expressed their interest in hosting a bubble. According to the plan established by the QMJHL, the 18 teams on the circuit will return to action, each playing two games in three days, from January 22 to 24, in six different cities, including four in Quebec. Subsequently, the QMJHL intends to create three bubbles of four Quebec teams who would each play six games in nine days, from January 30 to February 7.” . . . Habashi’s complete story is right here.
The ECHL has created what it is calling the Commissioner’s Exempt List. It is, according to the league, “for players who have been deemed ineligible to play due to ECHL Covid-19 and Return-to-Play protocols.” . . . The league explains that “being placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List does NOT necessarily mean a player has tested positive. It could also mean the player has had close contact with someone who tested positive or is awaiting testing because of virus symptoms.” . . . Some ECHL teams opened the regular season on Friday night. The Kansas City Mavericks had to sign G Sean Bonar to a PTO on an emergency basis earlier in the day, because both of their goaltenders — Taran Kozun and Andrew Shortridge — are on the exempt list. Bonar had been released by the Jacksonville Icemen on Wednesday. The host Indy Fuel beat the Mavericks, 4-3 in a shootout. Kansas City didn’t list a backup goaltender on the game sheet.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Update on our border: To keep Canadians safe, we’ve extended the measures currently in place at the Canada-US border by another 30 days. Non-essential travel between our two countries remains restricted until at least January 21st, 2021.
CBC News: 6,768 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across Canada today. Nationwide, there have been a total of 448,841 cases and 13,251 deaths. There have been 362,293 recoveries, and 73,297 cases are currently active.
CBC News: Manitoba is reporting 447 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths related to the illness. There are 297 COVID-19 patients in the province’s hospitals, including 40 in intensive care. Manitoba’s 5-day test positivity rate is 13.8%. 2,723 tests were completed Thursday.
680 CJOB Winnipeg: Manitoba’s chief public health officer says the province’s COVID-19 death rate has increased by more than nine times since Thanksgiving.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 246 new cases of COVID-19. There are 133 COVID-19 patients in Saskatchewan hospitals, including 27 people in intensive care.
CBC News: Alberta is reporting 1,738 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths related to the illness. The province’s test positivity rate is 8.3%.
CBC News: B.C. is reporting 737 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 9,589 known active cases There have been 11 new COVID-19 related deaths in the province. There are 342 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals, including 87 in intensive care.
CBC News: Ontario reports 45 additional COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily toll since October 2. There are 1,848 new cases; 469 in Toronto, 386 in Peel Region, and 205 in York Region. Ontario processed 63,051 tests (highest so far); test positivity rate is 3.2%. . . . Clarification: A previous tweet said the 45 lives claimed by COVID-19 in Ontario yesterday is the highest daily total since Oct. 2. In fact, that total reflected a data correction including previously unreported fatalities. The last day Ontario had 45 or more deaths was June 4.
Global Montreal: Quebec is reporting 1,713 new COVID-19 cases and 53 additional deaths as hospitalizations jumped Friday.
CBC News: New Brunswick is reporting 8 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 78 known active cases. There has been a new COVID-19 related death in the province, the 8th since the start of the pandemic.
CBC News: Nova Scotia is reporting 9 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 65 known active cases in the province. 5 cases are in the Central Zone, 3 in the Western Zone and 1 in the Northern Zone. There are currently no COVID-19 patients in the province’s hospitals.
CBC News: 1 new COVID-19 case has been reported in Newfoundland and Labrador. The new case is in the Western health region and is being investigated. The province’s known active caseload remains at 20, as 1 new recovery was also announced Friday.
CBC News: 16 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Nunavut. There are 56 known active cases in the territory, all in the community of Arviat.
108,000 currently hospitalized for COVID-19 — more than the population of Green Bay WI (105,207). https://t.co/FYgZcfkDvY
Tom Tapp, deadline.com: The number of daily new Covid-19 cases in California jumped 20% in the past 24 hours to a new all-time high of 35,468. It’s the third record number of new cases in the past week. The state has also seen records fall in terms of deaths — that was 220 yesterday — and hospitalizations — at 12,940 on Friday — and ICU capacity — with just 9% left statewide.
The New York Times: More than 6,600 college athletes, coaches and staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, a New York Times analysis found. The actual tally is assuredly far larger, with dozens of schools releasing limited or no data for their athletic programs. . . . The Times was able to gather complete data for just 78 of the 130 universities in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Bowl Subdivision, the top level of college football. Some of those schools released the pandemic statistics only in response to requests filed under public records laws.
The junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League is on hold until at least Jan. 10. In a brief statement, the league said it “will be evaluating our ‘go-forward’ plan at that time. . . .
The Regina High Schools Athletic Association has continued its hold on all winter sports until at least February. . . .
Eli Gold, who has called 409 straight Alabama Crimson Tide football games, will have the streak end today (Saturday) because he and his wife have tested positive. Gold, 66, hasn’t missed a game since 1987. . . . Alabama (9-0) is scheduled to visit Arkansas (3-6) today. . . .
The U of Alaska-Fairbanks has opted out of the 2021 NCAA hockey season. From a statement: “The announcement on hockey was made in conjunction with a decision to suspend competition in men’s and women’s basketball at the school as well due to health and safety concerns.” . . . The U of Alaska-Anchorage shut down its program earlier this year. . . . This means that the WCHA will have eight teams when it begins conference play in January. . . . There now have been 10 NCAA Division I hockey teams opt out of this season.
The 2021 Kamloops Kidney Walk will be held virtually, as it was in June. Yes, Dorothy will be taking part, as she has since 2014. . . . She already has registered and her granddaughters, Averi and Kara, have joined her team. If you are interested in making a donation — perhaps you are looking for a tax receipt for this year’s filing — you are able to do so right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 4 of 5, and it’s a long one (but not as long as Part 5). I hope you enjoy it. . . .
When the WHL headed into the 1981-82 season, which was the beginning of its fourth five-year segment, stability was not exactly a strong suit.
For example, of the 13 teams that came out of the gate in the fall of 1981, only two — the Portland Winter Hawks and Saskatoon Blades — wouldn’t undergo a change in ownership or location over the next 10 years.
But had you predicted the WHL would be as healthy and as stable as any league in existence just 10 years later, well, not many people wouldn’t have scoffed.
Hockey in the early 1980s was fighting to leave its fightin’ image behind.
The WHL was no different. The days of the Broad Street Bullies were coming to an end. Unfortunately for the WHL, it took some people longer than others to realize that.
For starters, the Regina Pats hired Bill LaForge as their head coach on May 20, 1981. At the time, he was under an OHL-imposed suspension that was to last until Jan. 1, 1982. LaForge, while with the Oshawa Generals, had become physically involved with Peterborough coach Dave Dryden and then with Petes player Doug Evans in a pregame brawl.
Neither the suspension nor LaForge’s reputation scared off Regina general manager Bob Strumm, who gave LaForge a two-year contract.
Of his OHL suspension, LaForge said: “I’ve never been suspended in 12 years of coaching and I have no intention of it ever happening again.”
Before the 1981-82 season ended, LaForge would be suspended three times. And he would also be in a Lethbridge courtroom, facing an assault charge.
At the same time, there were other changes that would mean a lot to this league as its history continued. For starters, Russ Farwell moved into
Calgary as the Wranglers assistant coach and assistant GM. He would later prove to be as astute as any hockey man who has ever sat behind a WHL desk.
An NHL team also became involved in the WHL at the ownership level. Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, purchased the New Westminster franchise and moved it to Kamloops as the Junior Oilers.
Pocklington owned 70 per cent, with 35 shareholders holding the rest.
“They seem to be an enthusiastic group,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “And a new building there in the future would be a plus for us. I know the franchise moved out of Kamloops in the past. But I think that was a case of people looking for greener pastures after seeing the success that was achieved in Portland.”
On Aug. 19, the WHL began shaping its office for the future when Richard Doerksen, the league statistician for three seasons who was named referee-in-chief midway in the 1980-81 season, was given the title of executive assistant.
There was an ugly incident in Medicine Hat on Oct. 14 when, during a bench-clearing brawl against the Lethbridge Broncos, Tigers general manager/coach Pat Ginnell got into it with linesman Gary Patzer. According to The Canadian Press, Ginnell “exchanged blows” with Patzer.
The next day, Medicine Hat RCMP laid an assault charge against Ginnell. One day later, Ginnell and Patzer were suspended indefinitely. Ginnell would later charge Patzer with assault, and both would plead not guilty. Ginnell eventually pleaded guilty and was fined $350, while the charge against Patzer was withdrawn by the Crown. Ginnell ended up serving a 36-game suspension.
There were serious problems in Spokane. And on Dec. 2, the WHL suspended the franchise. A proposed sale fell through and the 3-23-1 Flyers were done for the season.
One of the WHL’s great success stories began on Jan. 19, 1982, when, during meetings at the all-star game in Winnipeg, an expansion application from Prince Albert was accepted.
It was a sad night, March 23 was, in Regina. It was Fan Appreciation Night and by the time the ice chips cleared, the Pats and Calgary had done it up right. When the WHL office got through, the teams were hit with $1,250 in fines and 36 games in suspensions. Regina got 27 games and $1,000.
On April 8, it was revealed that Bill Zeitlin of Chicago, a minority owner with baseball’s White Sox, had bought the Billings Bighorns from Joe Sample for $300,000. Zeitlin promptly moved the team to Nanaimo.
Regina brawled its way into the WHL final, but not before LaForge landed in a Lethbridge courtroom.
LaForge became physically involved with Alfred Gurr, a fan, while players brawled on the ice during the first period of Game 1 of the East final.
LaForge was charged with assault causing bodily harm. Ultimately, LaForge was acquitted as the judge ruled it was hard to convict a person of assault for hitting “an obnoxious person trying to get into the coach’s area.”
Charges against the fan were dropped on June 22 when LaForge, the chief witness, didn’t appear in Lethbridge Provincial Court.
On April 29, Farwell was named GM of the Tigers and, just like that, the foundation was laid for back-to-back Memorial Cups.
Portland defeated visiting Regina 9-2, at home on May 2, to take the WHL final, 4-1. Regina was without Brent Pascal, Al Tuer and Dale Derkatch, who were suspended after a Game 4 brawl, the third time in the playoffs that the Pats were involved in a donnybrook.
Four days later, LaForge resigned. He later signed as GM/head coach in Kamloops.
Kelowna got into the league when Kelowna Sports Enterprises Ltd., headed up by Chris Parker, was sold an expansion franchise. Parker had operated the BCJHL’s Penticton Knights. The Wings named Marc Pezzin coach and Joe Arling GM. The Wings were bad — really bad. They were 1-26-2 at the Christmas break.
On June 22, the WHL approved the sale of the Wranglers to Wilf Richard and Jim Kerr from Pat Shimbashi and the Calgary Flames.
Regina landed defenceman Rick Herbert, 15, one of the most-wanted players in WHL history on Sept. 20, 1982, but it cost the Pats seven players. It happened during a draft that was held as teams cut their lists from 60 to 50 players. Regina traded Byron Lomow, Tim Brown and Kevin Pylypow to Kamloops for the draft’s third pick. Darryl Watts, Scott Wilson, Peter Hayden and Scott Gerla were given to Kelowna and the Wings agreed to pass on Herbert with the first pick. Due to draft rules, Prince Albert, with the second pick, couldn’t take Herbert. The Pats held pick No. 4.
Seattle picked up a 12-year-old from Thompson, Man., in that draft. His name? Glen Goodall.
On Oct. 18, the WHL admitted it had on file franchise applications from Moose Jaw, Edmonton, Red Deer and New Westminster. The Moose Jaw group included Lorne Humphreys, Bill Kelly, Jim Little, Barry Webster and Emmett Reidy. Other groups were headed by: Bill Burton and Ron Dixon, New Westminster; Vic Mah, Edmonton; and, Alf Cadman, Red Deer.
On Jan. 19, 1983, newspaper headlines everywhere read: Player swapped for bus.
Here’s what happened: The Seattle Breakers dealt the rights to left-winger Tom Martin to the Victoria Cougars for a used bus. “Actually, just the down payment,” said Breakers’ owner John Hamilton. “It might have been the best deal I ever made.”
At the time, Martin was playing at Denver University but said he wanted to play in his home town. The bus in question was purchased by the defunct Spokane Flyers from Trailways in 1981 for $60,000. The Flyers spent $15,000 on inside renovations. When that franchise folded, the Cougars bought the bus but it was sitting in the U.S., because Victoria was not prepared to pay customs, excise and sales taxes. Hamilton said he got the bus for Martin and $35,000.
Brandon owner Jack Brockest pulled the plug in March, selling the Wheat Kings to a group of local businessmen. “I simply, as an individual, could not have survived much longer,” said Brockest, who sold just four years after buying the franchise. Average attendance had fallen below the 1,500-mark.
Calgary lost out to Lethbridge in the East final, and Wranglers coach Doug Sauter resigned. He later signed with the AHL’s Springfield Indians.
Lethbridge went on to beat Portland in the WHL final. Both teams advanced to the Memorial Cup, the Winter Hawks getting in as host team. And, lo and behold, the Winter Hawks became the first host team to win the tournament.
On June 14, Bill Burton and Ron Dixon announced they had bought the Nanaimo franchise. They moved it to New Westminster. Yes, major junior hockey was back in Queen’s Park Arena.
On Aug. 28, Brandon traded centre Blaine Chrest to Portland for five players — centre Ray Ferraro, defenceman Brad Duggan, right-winger Derek Laxdal, and left-wingers Dave Thomlinson and Tony Horacek. Ferraro would set a WHL record with 108 goals and, in the process, may have saved the Brandon franchise.
As the 1983-84 season opened, it was revealed that a familiar face had returned to New Westminster. Bill Shinske was back as vice-president of operations.
Early in the season, Kamloops coach Bill LaForge, after beating Kelowna 7-5, said he was tired of facing little opposition: “It’s no fun taking two points off a team that gives you no resistance. They have no breakout, no forechecking, no system, nothing. The only adjustment you have to make is to duck.”
Meanwhile, out east, Ferraro was having a glorious season. He scored his 50th goal in his 32nd game, the second fastest 50 goals in WHL history. Bill Derlago had 50 in 27 games with Brandon in 1977-78. “The trade was the best thing that could have happened to me,” Ferraro said. “I wasn’t going to play that much in Portland. At the start of the season, we wrote down our goals and I wanted to have 35 goals by Christmas.”
It was a Merry Christmas in Moose Jaw as it was announced that Moose Jaw Tier One Inc. had purchased the Winnipeg Warriors Hockey Club Inc., and that the franchise would move for the 1984-85 season. Winnipeg would go on to finish with a 9-63-0 record, losing its last game 14-1 to visiting Regina on March 21.
Brawls were few and far between, but there was one with a difference in Regina on March 7. Brandon GM Les Jackson was fined $1,000 and suspended indefinitely for leaving the press box and attacking Strumm, Regina’s GM/coach, at the Pats’ bench, all this while players were fighting on the ice.
“I just wanted to let him know that if the kids are going to fight, I’m going to stick up for the guys, too,” Jackson said.
On March 12, Ferraro became the first player in WHL history to score 100 goals in a season when he scored twice in an 11-9 victory over visiting Winnipeg.
Swift Current was hot on the heels of another franchise, this time offering $360,000 to the Edmonton Oilers for Kamloops. Local businessmen rode to the rescue and kept junior hockey in Kamloops.
The story in the playoffs had to do with the failure of the Pats. It’s doubtful any team has ever been so close to the Memorial Cup and then not made it. Regina was 12 seconds away from eliminating Kamloops in the sixth game of the final. But Dean Evason tied the game 3-3 at 19:48 of the third period in Kamloops and Ryan Stewart won it at 13:03 of overtime. One night later, the Oilers won 4-2 and were off to the Memorial Cup.
Brian Ekstrom, president of Oakwood Petroleum, headed a group that purchased the Wranglers from Jim Kerr for $300,000. Kerr bought the team from Shimbashi in 1982 but still owed $200,000 to the former owner. Ekstrom didn’t renew Marcel Comeau’s contract as coach (Comeau went to Saskatoon), and named Hank Bassen as GM and Sandy Hucul as coach.
Another franchise changed hands in late May when Dennis Kjeldgaard and Al Foder bought Lethbridge from Ross McKibbon of Taber.
And in mid-June, Sauter returned to the WHL, this time as head coach in Medicine Hat.
In Regina, Herb Pinder Jr. assumed controlling interest of the Pats.
Before the 1984-85 season started, LaForge left Kamloops for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. Kamloops dipped into the midget coaching ranks in Sherwood Park, Alta., and signed Ken Hitchcock.
Goodall, just 14, played his first game with the Seattle Breakers on Oct. 10, 1984. It was a 12-3 loss in Regina. “My parents were here tonight,” Goodall said, “and they’ll follow us around on the rest of our eastern swing, and they might take a trip out to Seattle and I’ll see them at Christmas, so it won’t be too bad.”
As for his first game, he said: “I thought I played OK in the third period. When you’re down by a lot of goals, it’s hard to keep it up.”
He would play 399 regular season games by the time his career ended.
A rivalry was born on Nov. 13, 1984, when Moose Jaw scored its first victory over Regina, winning 6-4 in Moose Jaw. But referee Darren Loraas was forced to call the game with 26 seconds left.
“I was surprised and disappointed,” Moose Jaw head coach Graham James said. “I thought the league was past that. It’s not necessary to play like that. The whole thing was disgusting. If Bob (Strumm) really wants to do battle like that, let the generals do the fighting and let’s leave the troops on the bench. We’re trying to sell the game here and I don’t think this helps it.”
The Pats were fined $1,500 and hit with 21 games in suspension; Moose Jaw got $200 and four games.
The under-age draft was playing havoc in Portland, where the Winter Hawks were missing a few players. Here’s Portland co-owner/GM Brian Shaw: “We should have had 11 returning players this year from the team that won the Memorial Cup. We have one — John Kordic — and that’s through no fault of our own.” Ken Yaremchuk, Richard Kromm, Alfie Turcotte and Cam Neely were in the NHL, while five other players walked away from the game.
The Winter Hawks gained some publicity, too, when their policy on drug and alcohol use was revealed. Here’s Shaw, again: “Everybody says there’s drugs in sport and nobody does anything about it. We are trying to do something about it. We take urine tests approximately every two weeks, and we also take spot tests, to assure ourselves that there’s no alcohol or drug involvement.”
Shaw said parents were fully aware of all of this: “We sent them a letter saying: “For the benefit of your boy and our organization each boy takes a urine test.” If he wants to refuse to take the test, he can do it. Nobody refuses . . . why would they want to refuse?” And, according to Shaw, no parents objected.
On Dec. 3, Prince Albert, in its third season, moved into first place in the East for the first time. The Raiders got into the WHL for $100,000 and then paid $75,000 for what was left of Spokane’s player list. You see, when the dispersal draft of the Flyers was held on Dec. 3, 1981, WHL teams were allowed to select only players on the active roster. The Raiders, then, bought the list and got three future stars — centre Dan Hodgson, right-winger Dave Pasin and defenceman Manny Viveiros.
On Dec. 12, New Westminster’s Cliff Ronning set a WHL record with a goal in his 16th consecutive game, a 3-2 home-ice victory over Medicine Hat.
It was revealed in January that Seattle owner John Hamilton was having financial problems and — surprise, surprise — Swift Current made him an offer.
“When I got into the hockey business, I was $60,000 short of being a millionaire,” Hamilton said. “Now I’d take the $60,000.” He said he had lost $500,000 since getting involved in 1979.
Swift Current struck out, again, on Jan. 14 when the WHL board of governors, not wanting to lose a West Division team, voted against the sale of the Breakers.
Hallelujah! On Jan. 22, 1985, the WHL did away with round-robin series in the playoffs, choosing to go strictly with best-of-five/seven series in the East, and best-of-nines in the West.
Rumours involving Swift Current surfaced in late March when the Bank of Nova Scotia asked the Wheat Kings for a written financial plan. Swift Current would strike out again when three Brandon businessmen bought the team.
The Raiders, 16-55-1 and last in their first season, were 41-29-2 and fifth the next season. In their third season, though, they went 58-11-3 and went on to win the WHL championship, sweeping Kamloops in the final.
“Winning the world championship was a thrill, but winning the WHL title is more satisfying,” said Terry Simpson, the Prince Albert GM/head coach who had led Canada to a world junior gold medal earlier in the year. The Raiders then won the Memorial Cup, cruising past the Shawinigan Cataractes 6-1 in the final game.
New Westminster beat Victoria 5-4 on March 22 and Ronning had four assists, giving him 197 points, one more than the WHL record set by Brandon’s Brian Propp in 1978-79.
In April, the WHL announced 12-year-olds were no longer eligible for its player lists. The league also decided to allow its teams to use three 20-year-olds, rather than two, in the 1985-86 season.
On April 2, the WHL took over the Seattle franchise, later selling it to Calgary businessman Earl Hale.
The end of Pinder’s association with the Pats began on May 1 with a story in the Regina Leader-Post. The May 1 story began: “Regina Pats fans are going to have to dip into their pockets for an extra dollar to cover parking charges announced by the Pats’ landlord, the Regina Exhibition Association.”
Pinder said he was “very disappointed and very concerned” by the decision. “We’re disappointed because they made a policy and then came and told us after it was in place.”
On May 6, Strumm resigned as GM/head coach in Regina, ending a six-year association with the Pats. He later accepted an offer to join the Sudbury Wolves but changed his mind before leaving for the Ontario city.
And there was trouble brewing in Moose Jaw where James was offered a position as co-coach and assistant GM by general manager Barry Trapp. Here’s James: “The bottom line is they took away my head-coaching position and that is a breach of contract. I can’t work with Barry Trapp anymore.”
James resigned shortly thereafter, saying: “I didn’t quit as head coach. They took that away from me.” He later sued the Warriors for breach of contract, a suit that was settled before it got to court.
For the first time since the fall of 1975, the WHL was ready to open a season with the same teams that finished the previous season.
But before 1985-86 could begin Vic Fitzgerald, now the majority owner in Kelowna, moved to Spokane.
Pat Ginnell was back in the WHL, this time as head coach in New Westminster. On Sept. 11, in their first exhibition game, the Bruins brawled with Seattle in Chilliwack. Ginnell was suspended for five games and fined $500. He was also told that another bench-clearing incident would cost him 25 games and $2,500.
On Oct. 10, the WHL made half-visors mandatory for all players.
As the season began there were ominous signs in Regina. In 1984-85, there were only four (of 36) regular-season crowds under 2,000. In October of 1985, there had already been five crowds under that figure.
Regina businessman Bill Hicke, a former NHL and WHA player, admitted he almost bought the Pats in June for $450,000. But he said he wouldn’t pay that for the team in November with its apparent problems.
Hicke said the Pats were faring poorly at the gate because of poor marketing strategy and low season-ticket sales.
“I think the Pats have to get more aggressive in marketing,” he explained. “They don’t have enough people to do the marketing now. You have to go knocking on doors. I know, for a fact, that they’ve sold only 600 season tickets. I have three partners who would sell 500 season tickets apiece.”
On Nov. 21, John Chapman was fired as head coach in Lethbridge. He was in his sixth season with the Broncos. Earl Jessiman replaced him.
In New Westminster, there was a changing of the dinosaurs — Ginnell was out, replaced by Ernie McLean who said hockey has “gone too much European . . . and I don’t agree with it. I still believe in the Boston style of hockey.”
Things really started to happen in Regina in mid-December. First, GM/head coach Bill Moores confirmed that the Pats had informed their landlord, in writing, that they intended to vacate the Agridome by Jan. 6. By this stage, the team and the Regina Exhibition Association were embroiled in a messy lease negotiation, not the least of which concerned paid parking.
It was evident that Pinder intended to sell the franchise to Swift Current. Moores scheduled practice ice at various Regina arenas and made plans to move to Swift Current in mid-January.
On Dec. 30, Pinder ordered the postponement of the Pats’ first home game of 1986. Chynoweth agreed with the decision: “We thought it would be in the best interests of everyone to cancel the game until the situation is settled.”
But on Jan. 13 the WHL’s board of governors rejected Pinder’s sale of the Pats to Swift Current, choosing instead to purchase the franchise itself.
Hicke, still interested in buying the Pats, said he felt sorry for the people of Swift Current: “I believe down the line that Swift Current deserves a team, but they don’t deserve the oldest team in the league.”
By now, the Swift Current people had at one time or another tried to buy Winnipeg, Brandon, Kamloops, Kelowna, Seattle and Regina.
Ironically, on Jan. 14, about 12 hours after Pinder announced the sale of the Pats to the WHL, the exhibition association said it was dropping its controversial $1 parking fee for Pats games. Mike Kelly, REA general manager, explained: “We feel this is a positive step. While the Pats are in this transition period, we’d like to help out.”
To which Pinder responded: “I think the paid parking has ruined our business and I’ve had to relinquish our business.”
In late February, the WHL sold the Pats to four Regina businessmen — Hicke, Morley Gusway, Ted Knight and Jack Nicolle.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual around the league. In Queen’s Park Arena, for example, Kamloops head coach Ken Hitchcock was seen, according to The Canadian Press, “holding a hand over his eye to mock New Westminster’s one-eyed mentor, Ernie McLean, while McLean brandished a sign depicting the heavy-set Hitchcock as a pig eating hotdogs.” They were later fined $250 each.
And still the Swift Current people weren’t done because on Feb. 23, 1986, Dennis Kjeldgaard revealed the Broncos were for sale.
Guess what! Yes, the WHL brought back the round-robin format, this time deciding that the East’s top six teams would play in a home-and-home round-robin with the top four teams moving on. This would prove to be a disaster, and last just one season.
On March 25, Chynoweth suffered a mild heart attack and was in intensive care in a Calgary hospital. He would return to work, on a part-time basis, early in May.
Finally, Swift Current was in. On April 11, the WHL returned to Swift Current when a group headed by Rittinger purchased the Broncos from Kjeldgaard and Foder.
And Strumm was back in the WHL, this time as the GM in Spokane. Chapman was back, too, as GM in Calgary.
But Lethbridge wasn’t done. By May 1, city officials had contacted Chynoweth, stating their desire for another franchise.
Swift Current moved quickly to get its organization moving. Rittinger announced on May 1 that James would be the club’s GM/head coach.
The WHL final featured Kamloops and Medicine Hat, the latter making the first of what would be three straight trips to the final. This time, Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight, taking the last one 7-2 on May 5.
There wouldn’t be a WHL team in the Memorial Cup final — the OHL’s Guelph Platers beat the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques, 6-2 — but Medicine Hat would solve that problem next season. And the season after that.
The great Al Arbour won 29 playoff series as the head coach of the NHL’s New York Islanders. Yes, that is a franchise record. Who’s in second place? Barry Trotz, Jack Capuano and Terry Simpson, each with one.
“Look,” writes Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, “Tiger Woods is one of the greatest athletes of our time. And he’s been great for golf as a sport. But a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Is Trump awarding it to him for his Masters’ win, or for being a fellow example of success and applause after repeatedly cheating on his wife?”
Richmond, B.C., blogger TC Chong: “Tiger said he would reciprocate by giving Trump an autographed copy of the Nine Commandments.”
Hough, again, this time on the mess in which New England owner Robert Kraft finds himself: “How perfect that the Patriots finally are on the other side of being unknowingly videotaped?”
#JoshGordon, serving yet another suspension for substance-abuse issues, has signed for the 2019 season with #Patriots. It's all part of NFL's "17 strikes and you're out" policy.
RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com weighs in on the Tampa Bay Lightning getting ousted in shocking fashion by the Columbus Blue Jackets: “With the Lightning suffering a Round 1 sweep, I’ll spare them electrical puns, like lacking a spark, feeling re-volted or the Jackets being amped up. I’ll only say this: Watt happened?”
So . . . you’re watching all the upsets in the NHL playoffs and you’re wondering two things:
A baseball note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “If Milwaukee Brewers slugger Christian Yelich got to play all 162 games against St. Louis, based on his first seven games against the Cardinals in 2019, his season numbers would read: .500 batting average; .625 on-base percentage; 1.542 slugging percentage; 185 home runs; 231 runs scored; 440 runs batted in.
Despite this @MapleLeafs loss, rest assured we at TSN will continue to lead our shows with them throughout the playoffs.
Headline at TheOnion.com: Dedicated Russell Westbrook Stays Late After Practice To Miss 100 Extra Shots
So . . . Sportsnet picked up Game 7 between the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks from NBCSN on Tuesday night. That meant that play-by-play man Gord Miller and analyst Ray Ferraro, who normally work for TSN, were doing a game on Sportsnet. Interesting!
The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets will play an NHL game at 33,000-seat Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Oct. 26. Tickets went on sale to the general public on Thursday morning. According to the Regina Leader-Post: “Prices ranged from $164.50 to $369.50. It appeared that about half of the stadium’s seats were booked up within the first half hour of the public sale.” . . . Yes, many Regina hotels already are full up that night.
It’s officially baseball season now that the first round of the NHL playoffs is over. By this point of every NHL season, I am tired of watching NHL referees ignore the rule book at their choosing, and my attentions turn to Major League Baseball. This spring shall be no exception.