D Jonathon Blum (Vancouver, 2005-09) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Dinamo Minsk (Belarus, KHL). Last season, as an alternate captain with Admiral Vladivostok (Russia, KHL), he had one goal and 10 assists in 43 games. He also had three assists in 10 games with Sochi (Russia, KHL). . . .
F Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge, 2005-09) has been released by mutual agreement by Severstal Cherepovets (Russia, KHL). He had two goals and two assists in 25 games. . . .
F Marek Tvrdoň (Vancouver, Kelowna, 2010-14) has signed a contract for the rest of the season with the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite). He had been released by Klagenfurt II (Austria, Alps HL) after the end of a tryout contract on Nov. 11. He had three goals and three assists in six games. . . . Tvrdoň started the season with Saryarka Karaganda (Kazakhstan, Russia Vysshaya Liga), scoring once in four games.
As readers stopped by here late Tuesday night and on through Wednesday, they learned that the Green Bay Committee had shut it down in Cranbrook, B.C., having started to believe that the Kootenay Ice, the WHL franchise its members had been working to save, is in its final season there.
The committee had been selling tickets and raising money through sponsorships for the Ice in the hopes of keeping the team in the 4,264-seat Western Financial Place.
With all signs pointing to a departure at season’s end, readers started to suggest possible landing spots, other than Winnipeg. Among those mentioned, in no particular order, were New Westminster, Billings, Chilliwack, Anchorage, Wenatchee, Penticton and Vernon.
None of those will be a destination, of course, as it seems the Ice is destined to end up in Winnipeg playing out of the East Division, while the Swift Current Broncos would slide back into the Central Division.
When that happens, Cranbrook will be home to an arena that meets WHL standards — including new lighting, boards and glass, and with plans for a new scoreboard with video boards to be installed in time for 2019-20.
Perhaps the one thing missing would be a team.
But there already are people in Cranbrook who are wondering if there might be another WHL team interested in relocating.
For starters, you can forget about the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos. These are the four remaining community-owned franchises and they aren’t going anywhere.
But . . .
New owners took over the Prince George Cougars in time for the 2014-15 season and admit that they have been bleeding money. This season, the announced average attendance in Prince George is 2,521 through 11 games. Last season, the final figure was 3,024.
Might the Cougars’ ownership be interested in at least kicking some tires?
Meanwhile, the Tri-City Americans averaged 3,053 fans for seven playoff games last spring after a regular season in which that figure was 3,649. But the Toyota Center, which opened in 1988, needs help
A year ago, the Tri-City Herald published a story that centred on the needed improvements and included this:
“Neither (WHL commissioner Ron) Robison nor (Americans general manager Bob) Tory suggested the Americans might leave Kennewick. But they didn’t deny the possibility either.
“Tory said team expenses have doubled under current ownership while revenue has been flat.
“ ‘There comes a time when that doesn’t make sense any more,’ Tory said.”
Voters in Kennewick, Wash., have twice rejected a sales tax that would have had money directed to Toyota Center improvements.
A year ago, there really wasn’t another option for teams like the Cougars or Americans. That changes if/when the Ice heads for the Manitoba capital.
Interestingly, Tory is quite familiar with Cranbrook, having worked as Kootenay’s general manager for two seasons (1998-2000).
All was quiet on the Kootenay Ice front on Wednesday, the day after a local committee that was working towards ensuring that the WHL franchise stays in Cranbrook, B.C., chose to cease operations.
In a letter to Matt Cockell, the Ice’s president and general manager, as well as one of its two owners, the Green Bay Committee cited a lack of support from the Ice’s owners, Greg Fettes and Cockell, in its decision.
Fettes and Cockell, both with ties to Winnipeg, purchased the franchise prior to last season. This season has been loaded with speculation that the franchise will be relocated to Winnipeg before another season arrives.
Of late, however, there has only been silence from the Ice.
“The silence is deafening,” John Hudak, the committee’s marketing director, told the Cranbrook Daily Townsman. “I can’t speak for the owners of the team, I’m not a mind-reader and I don’t know what they are planning on doing, but it’s just highly unusual that people who have been in town for a very short period of time are not making that comment. If they have attendance problems (and) then they aren’t making any comments here to us and (aren’t) willing to engage with us . . . It’s disturbing.”
Hudak’s committee had invited Cockell to attend meetings. Hudak told Taking Note on Wednesday that Cockell’s refusal to attend “surprised” the committee.
Hudak said there was a “representative of the Ice, but not a decision-maker” at the committee’s first meeting on Oct. 25.
Hudak told Global News-Winnipeg on Wednesday that the Ice’s lack of engagement is “probably the single biggest thing that has impacted our ability to lock up some ticket sales.
“Why should we support this if these people aren’t going to remain in the community.
“(We) haven’t heard from the Ice ownership if it will remain . . . their silence on the subject has become deafening.”
Global News reported that “Fettes has also partnered with Brad Rice, who opened Winnipeg’s The Rink Training Facility in 2009, and is building a new facility south of the city. Sources have told Global News a new 5,000-seat arena is planned to be developed on the site to accommodate the WHL team.”
In September, Fettes told Global: “As a fan, parent, and owner, I am passionate about hockey development in Winnipeg and across Canada. Because of this passion, I am involved with The Rink Player Development and their new facility at McGillivray and Loudon, including their expansion and development in the surrounding area.”
Kootenay’s next home game is scheduled for Friday night when the Calgary Hitmen are in town. Jeff Chynoweth is Calgary’s general manager. Fettes and Cockell purchased the Ice from Chynoweth, his brother, Dean, and their mother, Linda.
The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame revealed Wednesday that Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, will received the 2019 W.A.C. Bennett Award for contribution to sport in the province. . . . The award will be presented during the Hall of Fame’s induction gala on May 23 in Vancouver. . . . Toigo has owned the Giants since purchasing an expansion franchise that began play in the 2000-01 season. He has been instrumental in having the 2006 and 2019 World Junior Championships played in Vancouver, as well as the 2007 Memorial Cup. . . . Toigo already is in the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame and the Delta, B.C., Sports Hall of Fame.
G Gavin McHale, who made 45 WHL appearances over two seasons (2004-06), got to watch an NHL game while wearing the uniform of the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. With starter Braden Holtby a late scratch due to an undisclosed injury that is believed to be minor, the Capitals started Pheonix Copley against the host Winnipeg Jets and brought in McHale, a 31-year-old from Winnipeg, as the emergency backup. . . . The Jets won the game, 3-1. . . . McHale, who made 33 appearances with the Seattle Thunderbirds and 12 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, is the goaltender coach for the women’s hockey team at the U of Manitoba. . . . The 6-foot-7 McHale had been in the backup role once before. In February, he spent the third period on the Colorado Avalanche’s bench in support of Semyon Varlamov, who went in to replace the injured Jonathan Bernier.
The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have signed Alex Evin, their director of player personnel and associate coach, to a two-year extension that runs through the 2020-21 season. . . . Evin is in his second season with the Spruce Kings. . . . Adam Maglio, the Spruce Kings’ head coach, also is signed through 2020-21, as is general manager Mike Hawes.
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WEDNESDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS:
G Ian Scott blocked 43 shots to lead the host Prince Albert Raiders to their 11th straight victory, this time beating the Medicine Hat Tigers, 2-0. . . . The Raiders (18-1-0) now lead the overall standings by six points over the Everett Silvertips. . . . The Tigers (9-10-3) have lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . Scott even took a shot at an empty-net goal, only to have the scoreboard in the Art Hauser Centre get in the way. “He thought he was Marty Brodeur at the end there with the shot,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid told Jeff D’Andrea of panow.com. “I thought it had a pretty good chance. He got some good weight on it and she was going. But then the clock obviously got in the way. That was the end of that.” . . . F Brett Leason (18) scored the game’s first goal, while shorthanded, at 8:58 of the second period. . . . F Noah Gregor (9) added insurance at 11:16 of the third. . . . Leason has at least one point in all 19 Prince Albert games this season. He and F Stelio Mattheos of the Brandon Wheat Kings are tied for the WHL lead in goals. . . . Scott has three shutouts this season and six in his career. On the season, he is 15-1-0, 1.50, .946. . . . BTW, the Raiders now have scored 11 times while shorthanded; their WHL-leading penalty-killers have surrendered only seven goals. . . . D’Andrea’s story is right here.
G Beck Warm turned aside 24 shots to help the Tri-City Americans to a 3-0 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . The Americans now are 12-6-0. This was Game 9 of an 11-game road trip on which they are 7-2-0, including 2-2-0 in the East Division. . . . The Broncos (4-16-2) have lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . Warm had one shutout this season and two in his career. . . . F Kyle Olson (4) opened the scoring at 4:20 of the first period, with F Krystof Hrabik (5) made it 2-0 at 19:15. . . . F Isaac Johnson scored his seventh goal into an empty net at 19:56 of the third period. . . . The Broncos remain without D Matthew Stanley, while F Eric Houk now has missed two games since being injured in a fight with F Carter Massier during a 2-0 loss to the Pats in Regina on Saturday.
F Josh Maser scored the winner in OT and also had two assists to lead the Prince George Cougars to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Kelowna Rockets. . . . Prince George (9-8-3) has won two in a row. . . . Kelowna (8-12-1) has lost three straight (0-2-1). . . . F Matej Toman (3) gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead, on a PP, at 10:05 of the second period. . . . Kelowna took a 3-2 lead on third-period goals from F Lane Zablocki (2), at 0:55, and F Kyle Topping (9), shorthanded, at 12:07. . . . F Vladislav Mikhalchuk (4) pulled the Cougars even at 19:43. . . . Maser won it with his sixth goal of the season with six seconds left in extra time.
F Riley Sutter’s shootout goal gave the host Everett Silvertips a 3-2 victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . The Silvertips (15-6-0) have won five straight. . . . The Winterhawks (12-6-2) had their five-game winning streak snapped. . . . Everett leads the U.S. Division, by four points over Portland, which holds a game in hand. . . . The Silvertips led this one 2-0 in the first period on PP goals from F Connor Dewar (16), at 2:27, and F Bryce Kindopp (8), at 12:25. . . . The Winterhawks got third-period goals from F Reece Newkirk (13), at 3:14, and F Ryan Hughes (7), at 3:55. . . . Dewar and Portland F Joachim Blichfeld each scored in the first round of the shootout. Sutter, the first shooter in the third round, got the winner. . . . The Silvertips got 39 saves from G Dustin Wolf, while Portland’s Shane Farkas blocked 41.