Jaynes: Only game being played will be the waiting game . . . No Flames or Stampeders in Calgary through June 30


If the NHL and NBA cancelled the remainder of their 2019-20 seasons, you likely wouldn’t be surprised.

If Major League Baseball cancelled its 2020 season, you might nod and say something like “OK, that gets us into early November.”

Yes, and it also would mean the NFL must have postponed the start of its season.

All of these decisions would seem to hinge on when health officials will allow the return of large gatherings. And that, it seems, might not happen for months and months.

Here’s Dr. Allen Sills, who is the NFL’s chief medical officer:

“As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport. Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”

When I see experts in this field talking like this I start to wonder about junior hockey at all levels. Because if health officials won’t allow gatherings of 50 or more people by summer’s end, there won’t be junior hockey in August or September or . . .


Dwight Jaynes, who works out of Portland for NBC Sports Northwest, has summed up the situation involving pro sports by writing, in part, that the leagues “are going to have to accept the reality the the only game being played for months will be the waiting game.” . . . Jaynes makes a number of bang-on observations in that piece that is right here.


Rick Westhead of TSN tweeted on Saturday: “With eight US states still refusing to impose stay at home legislation, one NHL player agent tells me he’s advised clients to expect the US-Canada border to remain closed until well after Canadian Thanksgiving.” . . . In Canada, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving this year on Oct. 12. . . .


FBI


The City of Calgary has cancelled all public events and all permits for city parks or facilities through June 30. . . . The CFL’s Calgary Stampeders are scheduled to play a home exhibition game on May 30 and to open the regular season at home on June 12. They also are to play at home on June 18. . . . Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s mayor, said Friday that neither the Stampeders nor the NHL’s Calgary Flames would be permitted to play games during this period. . . . There hasn’t been any official word on the status of the Calgary Stampede that is scheduled to open on July 3, but you would have to think it is in jeopardy. . . .


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from Mark Twain: “The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”


Organizers have cancelled the Manitoba Summer Fair that had been scheduled for Brandon, from June 3-7. . . .

In Montreal, the Just For Laughs comedy festival has been postponed from July 15-26 and now will be held form Sept. 29 through Oct. 11. . . . Montreal’s 2020 Jazz Festival has been cancelled. It was to have begun on June 25 and run through July 4. . . .

The 2020 Vancouver Scotiabank half-marathon and 5K have been cancelled. The event had been scheduled for June 28. . . .

The WNBA has postponed training camps and the start of its regular season that was to have opened on May 15. . . .

The Preakness, which had been scheduled to run on May 16, has been postponed with organizers saying they are searching for a new date. And when the race is held, there won’t be an infield party, which has always been a huge attraction and attracts upwards of 100,000. . . . Earlier, the Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to Sept. 15. . . .


All the best to Kerry Eggers, who has written about the Portland Winterhawks for more years than he would care to remember. He was laid off from his job with the Portland Tribune on Thursday. He had been there for, he tweeted, “19-plus years and 45 years in the sportswriting biz.” Eggers also tweeted that he “was planning a July 31 retirement but, as Ralph Miller used to say, that’s the way the pickle squirts.” . . .


Cat


The BCHL’s Powell River Kings have signed Chad van Diemen as their general manager. He will work with Brock Sawyer, the team’s new director of hockey operations and head coach. . . . Van Diemen played for the Kings 20 years ago and also was an assistant coach (2009-15). . . . From Kamloops, he also spent two seasons (2015-17) as head coach of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings. . . . He and his family moved back to Powell River in 2017 and he has been on the team’s board of directors. . . .

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The NAHL’s St. Cloud Blizzard has hired Tom Chorske as general manager and Corey Miller as its new head coach. Both are former NHLers and both are Minnesota natives. They also were roommates in college and in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. . . .


Washington governor expected to ban large gatherings . . . Would impact two WHL teams . . . Junior B series opener postponed


Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., at which, according to the Everett Herald, he is expected to “announce a ban on events and social gatherings attended by more than 250 people” as the area continues to battle COVID-19.

It is believed that an initial ban would impact Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Everett, the home of the WHL’s Silvertips, is the county seat and the largest city in EverettSnohomish County. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds play out of SeattleKent, Wash., which is located in King County.

It will also affect the MSL’s Seattle Sounders, Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves and XFL’s Seattle Dragons.

The Thunderbirds have three home games remaining — on Saturday (Vancouver), Tuesday (Spokane) and March 21 (Portland).

The Silvertips have one home game remaining, on March 20 against the Victoria Royals.

Later Tuesday, the Silvertips announced the cancellation of the Silvertips Radio Show “until further notice.” It was broadcast live from Sporty’s Beef & Brew, featuring play-by-play voice Mike Benton and appearances by players. Last night’s show was available via the Internet.

On Tuesday, Inslee said the banning of large gatherings, including sporting events, is under consideration.

“I would not be shocked if we have some more news on that in the next few days,” he said. “If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming, not just what’s here today.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll in the state from COVID-19 had reached at least 23, with more than 190 confirmed cases. Inslee said he expects that number to grow rapidly.

On Monday evening, Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, had displayed a chart that features five levels of actions. Washington state already has moved through Level 2 and, Hayes said, “We are at the ready to institute the third level. Level 3 includes “involuntary isolation of those sick” and “involuntary quarantine of those who have interacted with those sick.”

Hayes added: “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant . . . But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”

Level 4 involves ordering the “cancellation of major public and large private gatherings,” which would appear to be where at least three counties now find themselves.


With less than two weeks remaining in its regular season and the playoffs scheduled to open on March 27, the WHL has announced a handful of operational changes in response to COVID-19.

It has ordered the “elimination of handshakes between teammates, opponents and whlofficials,” while also impressing upon teams that players not share water bottles or towels.

The WHL also has asked all teams to “avoid direct contact with fans, including high-fives, handshakes, and autographing of items.”

The WHL’s statement didn’t make mention of whether it has looked at other options, such as playing games in empty arenas or even postponing/cancelling games.

While the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers, for two, have said they will abide by the WHL’s request, Saskatoon radio station CKOM reported that the Blades “aren’t putting limitations on fans.”

The station reported that “Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades, told 650 CKOM the team isn’t planning on following the recommendations, and autograph sessions will continue as scheduled.”



In Everett, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced that its men’s and women’s basketball championships are moving from Everett Community College to Clackamas CC in Oregon City, Ore., and Linn-Benton CC in Albany, Ore. . . . The tournaments were to have been played last weekend at Everett CC and, in fact, three women’s games were played on Thursday before the campus was shut down because of coronavirus concerns. A student from Everett CC later tested positive. The campus received a thorough cleaning and reopened on Monday.

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Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, the start of a junior B playoff series between the Oceanside Generals and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has been postponed. The North Division final was to have started Tuesday night in Parksville, but BC Hockey said several Campbell River players are self-isolating with flu-like symptoms. . . . Gerry Bickerton, the Generals’ president, told Nanaimo NewsNOW that his team is healthy. “Hockey-wise it’s frustrating but public safety-wise this has to be done,” Bickerton said. “With what’s happening right now, BC Hockey went and did their questioning and they’ve made their decision.” . . . It is hoped that the series now will begin Saturday in Parksville. . . . Alex Rawnsley’s story is right here. . . . As of Tuesday night, there hadn’t yet been a positive test for coronavirus on Vancouver Island.


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported via Twitter on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Kings “have banned their scouts from plane travel because of the COVID-19 virus. If they can’t drive to the game, they’re not to go.” . . . Campbell followed that up with: “Buffalo Sabres scouts are still flying, but not to Europe. They’ve also told their scouts that if they feel uncomfortable about flying, they don’t have to fly.”


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Some of Tuesday’s other developments . . .

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors played a home game in front of fans on Tuesday night, despite an aggressive recommendation from the City of San Francisco on Friday that all large, non-essential events be cancelled. . . . This isn’t sitting well with city officials. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the online news site Mission Local. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” . . . The Warriors have said that they don’t plan any changes before their next home game, either. That game is scheduled for Thursday. . . .

The NBA will hold a conference call involving team owners on Wednesday afternoon during which they will discuss possible moves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each franchise was required to have “several contingency plans in place” by Tuesday, including “an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist, the identifying of a specific facility to test for coronavirus and a plan to limit the number of team and arena staff members that would interact with players.” . . . On Wednesday, the owners are expected to discuss the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. . . .

The Austrian EBEL (Erste Bank Ice Hockey League) cancelled the remainder of its season, with the German DEL quick to follow suit. . . . The EBEL features teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. A statement from the league stated that “no championship title will be awarded in the 2019-20 season.” . . . The DEL statement read, in part: “The DEL is forced to end the current season. . . . The reason for this is the banning by federal states of events such as DEL games with more than 1,000 spectators. . . . Due to the premature end of the season, there is no German champion this year. As the main round winner, the EHC Red Bull Munich, together with the Adler Mannheim, the Straubing Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin, represent the DEL in the Champions Hockey League (CHL 2020-21).” . . .

Igor Eronko, a Sport-Express hockey writer and KHL-TV commentator, tweeted that “Moscow plans to cancel all the sports events with more than 5,000 spectators. . . . It will definitely affect the KHL playoffs.” . . .

For an in-depth look at postponements, cancellations and more from the hockey world, check out this right here from Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog. There is a whole lot of information here. . . .

The Ivy League shut down all spring football practices, effective Tuesday morning and running through at least April 5. . . .

The Ivy League also cancelled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were to have been played this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The Princeton women and Yale men were awarded the league’s NCAA tournament bids. . . . The Ivy League also made the decision to limit attendance at all sporting events through the end of its spring season. . . .

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cancelled the rest of its state boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey and boys swimming tournaments. . . . The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association has also cancelled its playoffs. . . .

Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has recommended all indoor games be played without spectators. That would include the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, whose next home game is scheduled for March 24. . . . DeWine tweeted that “for indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents and others essential to the game.” . . . The Blue Jackets later issued a statement, saying that they have been in contact with the NHL and “it has been determined that our scheduled games, including Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticket fans that wish to attend.” . . . The Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland starting on Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy. Thus, they won’t be open to the public. . . .

The Big West Conference will play its conference tournaments without fans in the buildings. The men are to play this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim; the women will play at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. . . .

The Zac Brown Band has postponed a spring tour. . . . BMI, a music rights management company, has postponed its Latin Awards that had been scheduled for Los Angeles on March 31. A new date hasn’t yet been chosen. . . . The Coaches Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was to have run April 10-12 and April 17-19, has been postponed to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. It annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. . . . Stagecoach, a country music festival, also has been postponed. It, too, is held at the Empire Polo Club. Originally scheduled for April 24-26, it now is to be held Oct. 23-25.



I have spent the past couple of days cleaning out a filing cabinet. Of course, it never gets done as quickly as it should because, well, there are all of those old stories to read.

Like the one about when the WHL officially stopped referring to 20-year-old players as overage. The decision was made at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on April 2, 1985, when it also was decided to allow teams to dress three such players, up from two.

“I’m pleased about the move to three 20-year-olds,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “We also decided to eliminate the word ‘overage’. From now on, those players will be referred to as 20-year-olds.”

At the same meeting, the WHL made 12-year-olds ineligible to be placed on teams’ protected lists. Prior to that decision, a 12-year-old took up two spots on a team’s list.

The WHL, at the time, continued to allow the listing of 13- and 14-year-old players without any restrictions.


Scattershooting on a Monday night while wondering who wants to be a Millionaire . . .

Scattershooting

The Edmonton Oil Kings are the first of the WHL’s 22 teams to acknowledge making procedural changes to their operation due to COVID-19.

On Monday, the Oil Kings announced changes to “team interactions and in-game EdmontonOilKingsexperiences in an effort to best protect the health of our players, staff and fans.”

From a news release:

“After careful deliberation, the in-game concourse carnival and post-game team autograph session on Family Fun Sunday, March 15 vs. the Lethbridge Hurricanes, as well as first-intermission player autographs on Saturday, March 21 vs. the Red Deer Rebels, will be cancelled.

“The Chuck-A-Puck also won’t be sold during the final two games of the regular season and duration of the playoffs.”

Those games are the Oil Kings’ final home games of the regular season.


The NHL’s San Jose Sharks are working on how they will deal with a mandatory ban by Santa Clara County, the home of the SAP Center, on events that will draw more than NHL1,000 people.

The county announced the ban on Monday evening after reporting its first coronavirus-related death.

The ban is to begin at midnight Wednesday and last for at least three weeks. The Sharks have three home games scheduled for that time period, including against the Montreal Canadiens on March 19, while the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda have two games scheduled.

County officials have said they would allow teams to play without any fans present. As of late Monday night, it wasn’t known how the Sharks and/or the NHL will respond.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that “the ban is one of the most sweeping precautionary measures put in place by any region in the country. . . .”


The Canadian Press reported Monday that the Quebec government is contemplating whether to allow the world figure skating championships to proceed at Montreal’s Bell Centre.

The championships are scheduled to run from March 16 through March 22.

“We have to do a case-by-case analysis of the events, but we are aware that we need to make a decision rapidly concerning (the Worlds) . . . What I want to say is a decision needs to be taken as quickly as possible,” Danielle McCann, Quebec’s health minister, told CP.

A statement from Skate Canada read: “The event is scheduled to take place as planned.”

Meanwhile, the world women’s curling championship, which is to open Saturday in Prince George, is going ahead, at least as of Monday night.

Should the figure skating or curling events be cancelled, it would be another major hit to Canada’s sporting scene after the International Ice Hockey Federation decided Saturday to cancel the world women’s championship that was to be played in Halifax and Truro, N.S., from March 31 through April 10.

CP has more on all of this right here.


The NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS issued a statement on Monday regarding dressing room access:

“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These temporary changes will be effective beginning with (Tuesday’s) games and practices.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”

As I mentioned here the other day, dressing room access isn’t an issue with the WHL as it limited media access almost 20 years ago.

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Elsewhere . . .

The San Francisco Unified School District, which includes about 55,000 students, has cancelled all “non-essential events” for two weeks. That includes all games and practices for teams in the district. . . .

Pearl Jam has postponed all of the North American dates on its Gigaton tour that was to open March 18 in Toronto and end in Oakland on April 19. The band wrote in a statement: “It certainly hasn’t helped that there’s been no clear messages from our government regarding people’s safety and our ability to go to work. Having no examples of our national health department’s ability to get ahead of this, we have no reason to believe that it will be under control in the coming weeks ahead.” . . . Pearl Jam still has European dates on its summer schedule, at least for now. . . . Khalid, BTS, Green Day, Avril Lavigne, The National, New Order, Old Dominion and Madonna are among entertainers who also have cancelled or postponed dates. . . .

The Republic of Ireland has cancelled St. Patrick’s Day festivities, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day festival parade that usually draws about 500,000 people to the streets of Dublin on March 17. . . . At the time the cancellation was announced, there were 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of Ireland. . . . Also on Monday, Boston announced the cancellation of its St. Patrick’s Day parade, while New York City said that it didn’t have any plans to cancel its parade. . . .

Starting today (Tuesday), Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, two if the biggest game shows on TV, will tape without studio audiences. . . . On top of everything else, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is battling pancreatic cancer and has a compromised immune system. . . .

On Monday, golf writer Robert Lusetich tweeted: “I’m told officials from the PGA Tour and PGA are discussing a contingency plan that could move the PGA Championship from Harding Park in San Francisco to TPC Sawgrass” in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The tournament is scheduled to run from May 14 through May 17. . . .

Nippon Professional Baseball has announced the postponement of the start of Japan’s season. Scheduled to open on March 20, the league now is aiming for mid-April. . . . Spring training games have been happening as scheduled, but without fans in the stands.


I have to tell you . . . this made me laugh . . .


The SJHL’s Melville Millionaires are looking for a general manager and head coach to replace Kyle Adams, who was released Feb. 26. He had finished one year of his two-year contract. If you’ve ever wanted to be a Millionaire, the job description is right here.

Scattershooting on a Friday night while remembering the Pocket Rocket . . .

Scattershooting

Henri Richard, the Pocket Rocket, died on Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84. . . . When he first earned a spot on the Montreal Canadiens’ roster, many observers felt he was in training camp only because his brother, Maurice (Rocket) Richard, was the Habs’ star. However, Henri earned a spot and before he was done he had won 11 Stanley Cups. . . . The great Roy MacGregor remembers the great Henri Richard right here.


While the Everett Silvertips topped the visiting Tri-City Americans, 6-0, in front of an announced crowd of 4,912 on Friday night, all signs point to the WHL at some point having to postpone, cancel or move games involving at least those teams in the Pacific Northwest.

The numbers in the Puget Sound region continue to rise, with the number of COVID-19 cases having reached 79 on Friday, including at least 15 deaths. The number of positive whltests are going up, up, up as more and more people are tested. The U.S., it seems, is woefully behind when it comes to testing citizens who are requesting tests, so no one has any idea just how many ill people are out there.

Meanwhile, everywhere one looks experts are recommending the shutting down of events that draw hundreds or thousands of fans, while the list of impacted events continues to grow.

On Friday, for example, Austin, Texas, declared a local disaster and that resulted in organizers cancelling the 34th annual South by Southwest — a music, technology and film festival that a year ago drew 417,000 people, many of them from international destinations. It was to have run from March 13 to 22.

In Seattle, organizers of Emerald City Comic Con, which was to begin next Thursday, announced that they were postponing their event.

But back to the WHL . . .

It could be that the WHL ends up playing in empty, or near-empty, arenas, either because fans are barred from games or just stop showing up.

“Each individual has to weigh their own risk tolerance,” Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday. “If things remain as they are, or get worse, I think the prudent thing to do would be to not go to things that are not essential.

“And I consider sporting events not essential.”

Dr. Swartzberg also told Killion:

“I’m looking at this through the lens of a physician and public health professor. If things continue as they have been, I would encourage people not to go (to large events). It’s very hard for me to condone the idea of doing anything that throws more gasoline on the fire.”

Meanwhile, a public health board in San Jose suggested that the NHL should be postponing games; the league and the San Jose Sharks chose to ignore the suggestion.

“The National Hockey League’s decision to reject a public health board’s recommendation to postpone a game in San Jose on Thursday night is being criticized by several infectious disease experts who say indoor venues such as NHL arenas are ideal breeding grounds for the spread of coronavirus,” reported TSN’s Rick Westhead.

“The Santa Clara County department of public health recommended Thursday that the NHL delay a game in San Jose between the Sharks and the Minnesota Wild. There are at least 24 documented cases of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, Calif., the public health department said, with four new cases on Friday, adding that avoiding large gatherings may help slow the spread of the virus.”

The Sharks played Thursday before a season-low announced attendance of 14,517 in the SAP Center. On Friday, the Sharks said that Saturday night’s game against the visiting Ottawa Senators will be played as scheduled. On Friday night, the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda entertained the San Diego Gulls at the SAP Center.

Dr. Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, an assistant professor in the department of health sciences and biology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., told Westhead that the NHL is being “unwise” in not following the recommendation.

“The virus is now community circulating, meaning you don’t have to go to a country like Iran or China to get it,” Dr. DeWitte-Orr told Westhead. “It can be transmitted by respiratory droplets and at an NHL game you have a lot of people in a close proximity and a lot of people yelling. There are going to be a lot of respiratory droplets in the air. If someone with coronavirus touches seats and railing and then you touch those spots and touch your face, you’re exposed to the virus. It’s not going to help you that after the game those surfaces are cleaned.”

Westhead’s story is right here.


JUST NOTES: Speculation on the Kootenays has Derek Stuart as the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who will begin play in the BCHL next season. At present, Stuart is in his third season as GM/head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The Dynamiters are into the second round of the KIJHL playoffs. . . . Hey, Tim Hortons, I’m thinking that you have the worst commercial on TV today. For the record, it isn’t anywhere close to being lit.

Ayres 2
David Ayres, the most famous EBUG in hockey history, was in Saskatoon on Friday night as the Blades beat the Regina Pats, 2-1 in OT. Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, was signing autographs and promoting organ donation at the WHL game. (Photo: Darren Steinke)

Scattershooting on a Wednesday night while wondering if COVID-19 will impact WHL teams . . .

Scattershooting

With a number of sporting events having been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, you have to wonder how much impact, if any, this might have on the WHL and its 22 teams.

Late Tuesday, Chicago State University revealed that its men’s basketball team wouldn’t whlbe travelling to Seattle University and Utah Valley for Western Athletic Conference games that were scheduled for today (Thursday) and Saturday.

The university cited the spread of COVID-19 in announcing at the same time that its women’s team wouldn’t play host to games Thursday (against Seattle) and Saturday (Utah Valley).weekend games.

On Wednesday, the U of Missouri-Kansas City announced that its men’s team wouldn’t travel to Seattle U for a Saturday game.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Seattle area — 21 in King County and 10 more in Snohomish County, with a total of 10 deaths.

Later Wednesday, Facebook revealed that one of its Seattle employees had been diagnosed with coronavirus. The company also said it was closing its Seattle office until March 9, while encouraging employees to work from home at least through the end of the month.

The WHL has four teams based in Washington state, with two of those in the Seattle area. While the WHL has yet to issue a statement on any preparations that might be underway or any plans it may be considering, one has to think that officials are keeping a close eye on things.

The Everett Silvertips have three home games remaining in the regular season, with two of them this weekend, and will have home-ice advantage in a first-round best-of-seven series that will open later this month.

The Silvertips are at home to the Tri-City Americans on Friday, and then will play home-and-home with the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday game is scheduled for Everett, with Sunday’s game in Kent, Wash., the home of the Thunderbirds.

Everett drew 6,633 fans to its last home game — it beat the Portland Winterhawks 4-1 on Sunday to move into first place in the U.S. Division. The Thunderbirds announced attendance for their last home game — a 6-3 loss to Portland on Feb. 29 — at 5,264. They have four home games remaining in the regular season.

On Wednesday afternoon, TSN’s Rick Westhead tweeted this statement from Dr. John Swartzberg, who is an infectious disease specialist at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health, on the risks of staging NHL and NBA games in Los Angeles after the county declared a public health emergency:

“We don’t know that much about this (respiratory virus). We know it’s (a) very contagious virus and fast spreading and we know the worst thing you can do to fan a pandemic is to bring people from disparate areas together in a crowded situation. There’s no question about that for respiratory viral infections.

“It would make sense if you have a serious problem to cancel events at venues where people are brought together in crowds, which is a great way to spread disease. It’s not what anybody wants to hear but if you take off the economics hat and just think about the transmission of an infectious agent, it makes sense to cancel events where people are brought together. From a public health standpoint, the less people congregate together, the less disease you’re going to have. The cases that we see are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s probably many, many, many cases walking around that we don’t see.”

The last time the WHL had to deal with anything like this was in February 2017 when it was faced with an outbreak of the mumps virus. At that time, it severely limited contact between players and fans, and placed a lot of emphasizing on sanitizing and disinfecting dressing rooms and equipment.

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The time is coming when major junior hockey is going to lose some of its best 19-year-old players to the AHL. Right now, the agreement between the NHL and the Canadian NHLHockey League calls for 19-year-old signed players to be offered back to their junior teams if they don’t stick with the big club.

For example, F Kirby Dach would have had to be returned to the Saskatoon Blades had he not earned a roster spot with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to this season.

The fact that a 19-year-old who has starred at the major junior level can’t move up to the AHL to further his development, rather than return for another season of junior, has been a sore spot with NHL teams for a while now. On the other side of the coin, junior operators understandably don’t want to lose their star attractions any sooner than absolutely necessary.

This all has been up for discussion for a few years now, and here it is again.

Here’s Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman with a note from his latest 31 Thoughts, following an interview with Marc Bergevin, the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens:
“Bergevin talked a bit about player development — that span between when someone is drafted and they join your organization. How important it is and how much (or how little) control the NHL team really has. The timing was interesting. The league’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League expires soon, and, once again, there is a conversation about sending players to the AHL. It’s not unusual for this to be a debate. This time, however, there appears to be momentum. We’ll see where it goes.”



What is wrong with this picture? On Tuesday morning, TSN had the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on one channel, using the ESPN telecast. Meanwhile, Sportsnet had the same game on five channels, using the feed from the YES Network. . . . Anyone else find it interesting that Rogers, which owns the Toronto Blue Jays and Sportsnet, has yet to send its play-by-play crew to spring training?


ICYMI: Old friend Lorne Molleken, the sartorially splendiferous one, will be honoured by the Saskatoon Blades prior to a game with the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on March 21. Molleken spent 13 seasons over three stints as the Blades’ head coach, and will have his named added to the club’s Builders Banner in the SaskTel Centre rafters. His coaching record with the Blades is 539-325-58. Oh, he also has 23 ties in. I’m not about to tell you how old he is, but, yes, he coached in the WHL when ties were a thing. . . . You can bet that somewhere on high Muzz MacPherson, in his gravelly voice, is laughing and nodding his head in agreement.


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Clayton Beddoes has resigned as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . “In recent weeks,” said Italian Ice Sports Federation president Andrea Gios in a news release, “some differences of views have emerged on technical and organizational aspects that have led both sides to opt for an interruption of the employment relationship.” . . . Beddoes, 49, is from Bentley, Alta. He had been on the Italian national team’s coaching staff since 2015, and had been the head coach since 2018. . . . Beddoes took over as the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL on March 11, 2019. He was replaced by Greg Ireland on Jan. 2.

WHL asks players to opt out of lawsuit. . . . Yes, Matvichuk wants to keep coaching. . . . Blades sign three 2019 draft picks

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D Nick Ross (Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, 2004-09) has signed a one-year contract with Jegesmedvék Miskolc (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). This season, with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had nine goals and 31 assists in 52 games. He was second on the team in assists. . . .

F Dalibor Bortňák (Kamloops, 2008-11) has signed a one-year contract with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, with Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 10 goals and 21 assists in 54 games. . . .

F Parker Bowles (Tri-City, 2011-16) has signed a one-year contract with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Lillehammer (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he had 20 goals and 25 assists in 48 games. . . .

F Gilbert Brulé (Vancouver, 2002-06) has signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). This season, with Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia, KHL), he had seven goals and 15 assists in 30 games. . . .

D Clint Filbrandt (Tri-City, Kootenay, 2012-14) has signed a one-year contract with DEAC Debrecen (Hungary, Erste Liga). This season, with U of Lethbridge (USports, Canada West), he had two goals and five assists in 25 games. . . .

F Calder Brooks (Calgary, Prince Albert, Spokane, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with Lyon (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with St. Mary’s U (USports, Atlantic University Sport), he had six goals and 15 assists in 29 games. He also had three goals and one assist in three games with the Wichita Thunder (ECHL). . . .

F Danis Zaripov (Swift Current, 1998-99) has signed a one-year contract extension with Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL). This season, he had nine goals and 23 assists in 48 games. He was third on his team in points. . . .

F Milan Jurík (Prince Albert, 2006-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Mulhouse (France, Ligue Magnus). An alternate captain, he had six goals and 17 assists in 42 games this season. . . .

F Brendan Shinnimin (Tri-City, 2007-12) has signed a two-year contract extension with Växjö Lakers (Sweden, SHL). This season, he had 17 goals and 16 assists in 47 games. He tied for the team lead in goals and points. . . .

F Marek Kalus (Spokane, Brandon, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. He led the team in goals and points.


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Rick Westhead, TSN’s senior correspondent, reported Tuesday that the WHL “is asking current and former players to opt out of a class-action minimum-wage lawsuit against the league, suggesting that the future of amateur sports in Canada is at risk. The WHL shared its message in an e-bulletin that was sent Tuesday by email to a distribution list that includes current and former players. The group email was obtained by TSN.” . . . Westhead’s complete story is right here.


It began with a report in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that had Richard Matvichuk, the former head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, as a candidate for the head-coaching position with the ECHL’s Komets.

Matvichuk wasn’t the favourite, reported Justin A. Cohn, but he was believed to be in the chase.

Then came a rumour that, no, Matvichuk didn’t want to coach, and that he would stay in Prince George and get involved with minor hockey.

Well, it turns out that Matvichuk, a 46-year-old native of Edmonton, isn’t through with coaching. At least, he hopes he isn’t.

As he told Taking Note: “Yes, I want to coach.”

And why shouldn’t he?

A defenceman, Matvichuk played three seasons (1989-92) with the Saskatoon Blades before going on to a professional career that included 796 regular-season NHL games and another 123 in the playoffs. His name is on the Stanley Cup (Dallas Stars, 1998-99).

His coaching career includes two seasons as assistant GM/assistant coach with the Texas-based Allen Americans, who then were in the CHL. He then spent two seasons (2014-16) as director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. He was the ECHL’s coach of the year in the second of those seasons.

Matvichuk brought that track record to the Cougars, and he guided them to first place in the B.C. Division with a franchise-record 45 victories in his first season. That marked the first time the franchise had won a WHL banner.

But the Cougars went all-in that season, then were upset in six games by the Portland Winterhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The Cougars spent the past two seasons trying to get back on track, as often happens to teams that try to seize the moment by going all-in.

General manager Mark Lamb, who was nearing the end of his first season with the Cougars, fired Matvichuk with 16 games remaining this season. Matvichuk’s three-year contract was to have expired following the season.

At the time, the Cougars were 16-30-6 and on an 11-game losing skid. Lamb stepped in as head coach and the slump reached a franchise-record 17 games before it finally ended. The Cougars went 3-11-2 under Lamb to finish at 19-41-8 and out of the playoffs.

During the season, the Cougars’ ownership, having surveyed the damage, reached the conclusion that it would never again go all-in, that the price to be paid just isn’t worth it because, as they found out, there aren’t any guarantees.

It also has to be pointed out that the Cougars’ 2018-19 season, at least in terms of grabbing a playoff spot, was done in by perhaps the worst stretch of scheduling in WHL history.

The Cougars were 11-14-3 in December when they headed into an absolutely bizarre 11-game road trip that was broken up by the Christmas break and included three separate treks into the U.S. Division.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote in February:
“If you’re wondering why things went south in Prince George this season, it may have had something to do with the schedule. As bad as 16-30-6 may sound now, the Cougars were 11-14-3 as they began an insane 11-game road trip that was interrupted by the Christmas break and included three separate jaunts into the U.S. Division. They went 3-8-0 on that trip, came home and beat Kelowna twice, and are 0-8-3 since those victories.

“Team management has since gone on the record as saying it will never again accept such goofy scheduling.”

The Cougars split with the visiting Victoria Royals on Dec. 1 and 2, then didn’t play at home again until Jan. 11 and 12 when they swept Kelowna.

It’s no wonder that Matvichuk doesn’t feel that he is done with coaching.


The WHL will have three of its coaches working benches during the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in November. . . . Michael Dyck, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants, has been named by Hockey Canada as head coach of Team Canada White. . . . Ryan Marsh, the associate coach with the Saskatoon Blades, will be an assistant coach alongside Dyck. . . . Steve O’Rourke, an assistant coach with the Prince George Cougars, is to be an assistant coach on Team Canada Red. . . . The tournament is to be held in Medicine Hat and Swift Current, Nov. 2-9.


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The Saskatoon Blades have signed three 2019 bantam draft selections to WHL contracts. . . . F Brandon Lisowsky, from Coquitlam, B.C., was taken in the first round, ninth overall. He is the eighth of the 22 first-round selections to sign a WHL contract. This season, Lisowsky had 61 goals and 48 assists in 53 games with the Burnaby Winter Club’s bantam prep team. . . . F Hayden Smith, from Kamloops, was selected in the second round. He had 24 goals and 23 assists in 30 games with the Yale Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . G Ethan Chadwick, from Saskatoon, was a third-round pick. He had a 2.83 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 22 games with the bantam AA Saskatoon Stallions.

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The Regina Pats have signed D Layton Feist to a WHL contract. Feist, from Coldstream, B.C., was selected in the first round, 17th overall, of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. This season, he had eight goals and 14 assists in 20 games with the OMAHA (Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association) North Zone Kings. . . . His older brother, Tyson, is a defenceman with the Pats.

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The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed F Brayden Boehm to a WHL contract.  He was a second-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . From Nanaimo, he had 16 goals and 24 in 30 games with the Delta Hockey Academy’s prep green team this season.

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The Swift Current Broncos have signed F Caleb Wyrostok to a WHL contract. From Medicine Hat, he was a ninth-round selection by the Broncos in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . Wyrostok, 16, played this season for the Northern Alberta X-Treme elite 15 team, putting up 20 goals and 15 assists in 30 games.


The MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders have signed Geoff Grimwood as their new general manager and head coach. Grimwood, from Victoria, spent 2018-19 as the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. Prior to that, he was the GM and head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for three seasons.


Bob Beatty, a veteran junior A coach, has signed on with the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons as an associate coach. For the past two seasons, Beatty has been the head coach of the bantam prep team at the Shawnigan Lake, B.C., School. In Fort McMurray, Beatty will be working alongside Dave Dupas, who is preparing for his first season as general manager and head coach.


Pierre-Paul Lamoureux is the new head coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force. A native of Grand Forks, N.D., he played three seasons (2004-07) with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and worked as their associate coach in 2016-17. Lamoureux was the Force’s associate head coach for the past two seasons. . . . Lamoureux, 31, will be the youngest head coach in the league. He takes over from Cary Eades, who stays on as general manager and president of hockey operations.


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IceDogs’ situation looks awfully messy. . . . Pats, Hurricanes make a trade. . . . WHL final resumes tonight in Langley

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An Ontario Superior Court judge in Hamilton ruled last month that documents related to ohlthe OHL’s Niagara IceDogs and unauthorized contracts with players would be unsealed on Friday. They were, and TSN’s Rick Westhead has gone over those documents.

According to Westhead:

“The Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs agreed to unauthorized side contracts with the families of two players — one of whom is still in the OHL — and likely had similarly secret and unsanctioned deals with a number of European players, according to an investigation into the team’s recruiting practices.”

Westhead provides a lot of details in this piece, which is particularly damning because the OHL, as he puts it, “is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of current and former players demanding they be paid minimum wage.”

The IceDogs are owned by Denise and Bill Burke.

Westhead continues:

“In connection with that case, Denise Burke testified in a Nov. 14, 2015, affidavit that while her OHL team brought in an average of $2.7 million, it still lost money.

“Seven months before the IceDogs purportedly signed a secret deal with the (Liam) Ham family, Denise Burke said that it would be ‘catastrophic’ if the IceDogs had to pay players.”

At that time, Denise Burke testified: “We knew that we wouldn’t become rich owning a team, but seeing as this is our only business, we have always hoped that we would at least be able to break even and at least make more money than we spend, otherwise sooner or later the ‘Bank of Burke’ will run dry.”

Westhead’s complete story is right here.


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The Regina Pats have acquired F Drew Englot, 16, from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a Patsfourth-round selection in the 2022 WHL bantam draft. Englot, who is from Candiac, Sask., was picked by the Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 2017 bantam draft. . . . He has played the past two seasons with  the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds, who have won back-to-back league titles. This season he had 21 goals and 20 assists in 43 regular-season games.


Two former WHL coaches were fired by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers on Monday as they juggled their staff after the hiring of Alain Vigneault as head coach. . . . Kris Knoblauch and Rick Wilson both were dismissed. . . . Knoblauch, 40, had been with the Flyers for two seasons. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the Prince Albert Raiders in 2006-07. He then spent five seasons with the Kootenay Ice, the last two as head coach. He also spent four-plus seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Erie Otters. . . . Wilson, 68, joined the Flyers this season, on Dec. 4. He has been an NHL coach, mostly as an assistant since 1988-89. He spent eight seasons (1980-88) on Prince Albert’s staff, the last two as head coach.


Dave Andrews will retire after spending one more season as the president and CEO of the American Hockey League. Andrews, a former head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, told the AHL’s board of governors on Monday that he is going to retire as of June 30, 2020. He is completing his 25th season as AHL president. . . . Andrews was the Cougars’ head coach for all of 1982-83 and part of 1983-84, when he was replaced by Les Calder. He later spent seven seasons as the director of hockey operations with the Nova Scotia/Cape Breton Oilers, then the Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliate.


The OHL’s Ottawa 67’s had their 14-game playoff winning streak come to an end on Monday as they were beaten 7-2 by the Storm in Guelph. The 67’s, who were outshot 36-20, lead the OHL championship series, 2-1. . . . They’ll play Game 4 in Guelph on Wednesday. . . . The 67’s had swept their first three series and then opened the final with two victories. . . . Ottawa G Mikey DiPietro, who suffered what is believed to have been a high ankle sprain in Game 2, wasn’t in uniform for this one. . . .

In the QMJHL, the visiting Rouyn-Noranda Huskies dumped the Halifax Mooseheads, 5-2, to take a 2-1 lead in the championship final. . . . They’ll play again tonight in Halifax. . . . Both teams will play in the Memorial Cup because the Mooseheads are the host team. The tournament is to run from May 17 through May 26.


Mike Reagan has signed a new contract as general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers. This deal will take him through the 2020-21 season. . . . Reagan has been with the Bombers for 12 seasons, winning at least 30 games in six of them. The Bombers have been in the playoffs in each of those 12 seasons. . . . There is a news release right here.


Cam Basarab is the new head coach of the Trail-based Kootenay Ice of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. He started this season as an assistant coach with the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. He was moved up to head coach in November and then replaced on Jan. 23. . . . Basarab also was a video coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes for the previous two seasons. . . . Basarab takes over from Kris Boyce, the head coach for the past three seasons.


F Liam Stewart, who played four seasons (2011-15) with the Spokane Chiefs, has signed on with the SkyCity Stampede of the New Zealand Hockey League. Stewart, born in Great Britain, has a New Zealand passport through his mother, ex-model Rachel Hunter, so won’t be classified as an import. . . . The Stampede, which plays out of Queenstown, is to open the season on May 31 against the Dunedin Thunder. . . . He was to have played this season with the Sheffield Steelers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in Great Britain, but was sidelined by a concussion. . . . Stewart’s father is rock musician Rod Stewart.


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NOTES: The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup resumes tonight (Tuesday) with the  Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Gains meeting at the Langley, B.C., Events Centre. . . . The series is tied, 1-1. . . . They’ll play again Wednesday and Friday in Langley. . . . The $64,000 question going into Game 3 is whether Prince Albert D Max Martin will play. He left Game 2 in the second period after falling awkwardly into the end boards and appearing to injure a shoulder. . . . Martin is key part of the Raiders’ back end. He had 41 points, including 35 assists, in 59 regular-season games, and has seven assists in 18 playoff games. . . . Here’s Darren Steinke of Stanks’ Sermon explaining the Raiders’ options: “If (Martin) doesn’t play that will likely shake up the Raiders normally locked-in defensive pairings of Martin with Sergei Sapego, captain Brayden Pachal with Zack Hayes, and Jeremy Masella with Kaiden Guhle.” . . . If Martin doesn’t dress, the Raiders likely will insert D Loeden Schaufler into what will be his fifth game of these playoffs.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia takes a look right here at Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, who has learned to change with the times.


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