Let me guess? You are wondering: What’s the latest on the Winnipeg Ice situation?
Well, I really don’t know anything, but a spy in Chilliwack tells me that he has heard that the “Aquilinis are working out a deal with the city to buy the building — or possibly get the city to manage it — and buy the Chiefs.”
The Aquilinis, of course, own the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks, along with assorted real estate properties and blueberry farms.
If you’re new to this situation, there has been ample speculation for a few months now that the Winnipeg Ice will be on the move at some point this summer. The move apparently has become necessary, or so the speculation goes, because the Ice’s owners, who moved the franchise from Cranbrook after the 2018-19 season, have failed to deliver on a promise to build a new arena, thus they are stuck in the 1,600-seat Wayne Fleming Arena on the U of Manitoba campus. The WHL, ’tis said, has had enough of that particular situation. (BTW, I believe there still is a lawsuit kicking around somewhere involving the City of Cranbrook versus the WHL and the Ice’s owners. Something about a lease.)
And so it is that Chilliwack is in the forefront of the rumour mill. Chilliwack, of course, once was home to the Bruins, who were sold and allowed to move to Victoria where they now are the Royals. That move, of course, meant that the WHL and its franchise owners didn’t get to divvy up the money they could have gotten had an expansion franchise been sold to someone eager to get into Victoria.
But we digress. . . .
The Chilliwack mole also tells me that Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, “wants a WHL team in Chilliwack, and he may be the mastermind behind all of this.”
If Toigo, indeed, is pushing for the Ice to end up in Chilliwack it makes all kinds of sense. For starters, having his Giants match up with the Chilliwack TBAs for 10 games a season would certainly cut a chunk out of travel expenses.
It also could be the start of a beautiful rivalry. If you think back to 2010-11, the Bruins’ last season in Chilliwack, they were just at the point where they could compete hard with the Giants, something that only would have been good for attendance. In 2009-10, the Giants had beaten the Bruins in seven of 10 meetings. In 2010-11, they evenly split the season series — 5-5-0.
While the rumour mill is working overtime, the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs just go about their business, signing players and doing whatever is involved in being part of an outlaw, er, independent league. (Back in the day, when the fathers of the WHL — Bill Hunter and Scott Munro and their gang — left the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, they were dubbed outlaws. In these days of political correctness, or maybe it’s because they haven’t robbed any stage coaches, the BCHL is referred to as being “independent.”)
BTW, the 5,000-seat Chilliwack Coliseum opened in 2004 as Prospera Centre. It is home to the Chiefs and is owned and operated by the Chiefs Development Group. Moray Keith, one of the Chiefs’ three owners, is the president of the Chiefs Development Group.
According to the Chilliwack mole, there already is a name being bandied about as the likely head coach should the Ice be sold to the Aquilinis and relocate. That would be Harvey Smyl, who, although he hasn’t coach in more than 10 years, has long ties to the Chilliwack hockey scene, having spent a bunch of seasons on the Chiefs’ bench back in the day. Oh yes, he also has at least one tie to the Aquilinis. That would be through his brother, Stan, one of the most popular Canucks of all time. Stan now is the Canucks’ vice-president of hockey operations.
Harvey Smyl as head coach in Chilliwack “is farfetched to me,” the mole told me. “But who knows these days?”
Who knows, indeed?
The Kelowna Rockets have acquired 2006-born F Tij Iginla from the Seattle Thunderbirds for 2005-born F Grady Lenton and two WHL draft picks — a first in 2024 and a second in 2027, the latter of which originated with Seattle. . . . That second-rounder was acquired by the Rockets from Seattle during the 2023 draft for third- and fifth-round selections in that draft. . . . Iginla is the son of former WHL/NHL star F Jerome Iginla, a Hockey Hall of Famer who now is a co-owner of the Kamloops Blazers. . . . Tij had six goals and 12 assists in 48 regular-season games with Seattle in 2022-23. He had one assist in three playoff games, all of them in the first round against Kelowna. . . . Seattle selected Iginla ninth overall in the 2021 WHL draft. . . . Lenton has four goals and four assists in 60 regular-season games with the Rockets. From Delta, B.C., he was selected by the Rockets in the eighth round of the 2020 WHL draft.
Three days after backstopping the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts to a Memorial Cup championship in Kamloops, G William Rousseau was dealt to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Wednesday. . . . In return, the Remparts got a first- and a second-round draft pick, both in 2024. . . . The 2003-born Rousseau picked up the shutout on Sunday as the Remparts blanked the Seattle Thunderbirds, 5-0, in the winner-take-all championship game. . . . During the regular season, he was 35-11 with a 2.22 GAA. . . . Rousseau had been selected by the Remparts in the fifth round of the QMJHL’s 2019 draft. . . .
Also on Wednesday, the Remparts dealt 2003-born D Jérémy Langlois to the Huskies for two draft picks — a fourth in 2023 and a second in 2024. He had two assists in four games during the Memorial Cup. After three-plus seasons with the Cape Breton Eagles, the team captain was dealt to the Remparts 27 games into the 2022-23 season. He had 33 points, 25 of them assists in 34 regular-season games with Quebec. . . . Langlois was a first-round pick by the Eagles in 2019, and was taken by the Arizona Coyotes in the third round of the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . .
Quebec also traded D Charle Truchon, 20, to the Rimouski Océanic for F Simon Maltais, 20, and two draft picks — a third in 2023 and a fifth in 2024. He had a goal and an assist in four Memorial Cup games, after putting up 10 points in 16 playoff games and 24 in 68 regular-season games. . . .
Those trades were among numerous deals that took place in a QMJHL trading window that ran Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to noon. Another window is set for Friday, from 9 to 10 a.m. . . . BTW, the Remparts were honoured at Quebec City Hall on Tuesday and were at the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Les Lazaruk may be the longtime play-by-play voice of the Saskatoon Blades, but deep at heart he’s a baseball guy. If you weren’t aware, he was half of the radio crew for baseball’s Winnipeg Goldeyes in their first season. And he was back in Winnipeg on Tuesday, having a reunion with Peter Young, the other half of that broadcast team, and watching the Goldeyes. . . . Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun has that neat story right here. . . .
Nathan MacDonald, the Swift Current Broncos’ executive vice-president of business operations, has left the organization after five seasons there. He will be joining the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers in an unspecified front-office position.
THINKING OUT LOUD: When I entered the newspaper business more than 50 years ago, one of the first lessons I learned was that it’s always about the money. And when they say it isn’t about the money, you absolutely know that it’s about the money. Hey, Saudi Golf Tour — er, PGA Tour — you crossed the line, so I’m out. . . . Is there anything more irritating than the yelling by Seattle Mariners’ play-by-play voices when one of their favourites hits a home run? Sheesh, guys, it’s still June. How loud would you go for a World Series blast? . . . ICYMI, the Coachella Valley Firebirds are into their first AHL final. The Firebirds are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. Did I mention that the Firebirds are in their first season? Yes, they are. They will open the best-of-seven final tonight against the visiting Hershey Bears, the AHL’s oldest franchise. Rich Franklin, who spent more than 10 years in the Portland Winterhawks’ front office, is the Firebirds’ senior director of corporate partnerships. . . . Rob Vanstone, who left the Regina Leader-Post’s sports department earlier this year, received a Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal on Wednesday “for his extraordinary leadership and service to local sports and the community.” These days, after spending years and years covering, among other things, the WHL and Regina Pats, Vanstone is churning out stories and more as the senior journalist and historian for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
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