Did Branch laugh, slap forehead or roll eyes? . . . Chirpin’ hockey with Jason Gregor . . . Blades add assistant coach

I spent some of Friday afternoon wondering if David Branch, the OHL commissioner, burst out laughing or slapped his forehead when he discovered that Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s sport minister, now is running his league.

ohlIf you missed it, a Canadian Press story indicated that MacLeod, who apparently was speaking to the Empire Club of Canada, stated that the OHL’s teams will play without bodychecking should their season get started on Feb. 4 as planned.

According to CP, MacLeod said that removing purposeful physical contact from the game is a necessary step to preventing the spread of COVID-19. She also said the decision was influenced by the QMJHL, which has had three teams experience a number of positive tests. Two of the QMJHL’s on-ice officials also tested positive.

Surely, Branch, who has been the man in charge of the OHL since 1979, must have had a good laugh, or another forehead-slapping experience. Or maybe he just rolled his eyes.

Anyway, it wasn’t long before the OHL put out this statement: “Until such time as we arrive at an agreed upon Return to Play protocol with the Government of Ontario, the League will have no further comment on the matter of body contact.”

Hopefully, Branch didn’t turn to Twitter to see the reaction. I mean, to say that people lost their stuff, well, that would be too kind.

People . . . people . . . really! Yesterday was Oct. 30. A couple of days ago, you thought the OHL was going to start on Dec. 1. Now it’s Feb. 4. This is, as they say, a fluid situation. If you haven’t learned that the virus is in charge here, you really haven’t been paying attention.

Meanwhile, allow me to share some of Friday’s virus-related headlines and tweets with you, just to, you know, keep you up to date because, hey, stuff is happening and it isn’t good . . .

CBC News: Quebec adds 1,108 new coronavirus cases; that’s the highest daily total in almost 2 weeks and pushed the province’s 7-day average to 961.

CBC News: Ontario is reporting 896 new cases of COVID-19. . . . The province’s 7-day average is now 909, the highest recorded since the pandemic began.

Daily Hive Vancouver: Canada is extending its ban on cruise ships until February of next year.

Bartley Kives, CBC Manitoba: Manitoba announced a record 480 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver, on Manitoba’s announcement: Per capita, that’s by far the highest any province in Canada has seen in a single day since the pandemic began.

Global News: St. Boniface Hospital intensive care unit officially over capacity.

Global News: Winnipeg closing rec centres, pools, arenas, libraries under new coronavirus restrictions.

680 CJOB: With over 400 new COVID-19 cases reported on Friday in Manitoba, new, tighter restrictions will effectively end sports in the Winnipeg region as of Monday.

Mike Sawatzky, Winnipeg Free Press: “Hockey Winnipeg president Chris Hall says that his organization is ‘shutting down everything effective (Saturday)’ after it was announced city would be under code red status by Monday. Several facilities, including the Iceplex, have already said they are shutting the doors.”

CBC News: Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said there were active alerts or COVID-19 outbreaks at 249 schools in the province.

CBC News: Alberta adds a record 622 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 5 new deaths, bringing the province’s total number of deaths to 323. This is significantly above the average of 450 new cases the province has been seeing for the last 10 days.

CBC British Columbia: B.C. announces 272 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 more death.

Global Okanagan: B.C. has granted regional medical health officers the powers to issue COVID-19 restrictions for their own jurisdictions. It comes as the province topped 6,000 people in isolation due to exposure for the first time.

Keith Baldrey of Global TV: Updating our southern neighbour’s COVID-19 situation: more than 1,000 cases in Washington state today (highest in weeks). In the past week alone: 5,200 cases/70 deaths/291 hospitalizations. 

Associated Press: Confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases surge past 9 million as infections are on the rise in 47 states. (NOTE: There are 50 states in the U.S.)

CNN: The US surpasses 9 million coronavirus cases just 14 days after reaching 8 million. It was the nation’s fastest 1 million-case rise of the pandemic.

The COVID Tracking Project: Our daily update is published. States reported a new record number of cases — 97k — and 1.4 million tests. Currently, 47k people are hospitalized. There were 933 COVID-19 deaths reported.

Detroit News: President Trump claims country is ‘rounding the corner’ amid new COVID-19 surges.

The Globe and Mail: Bobby Orr endorses Donald Trump, calling him ‘the kind of teammate I want’


Hating


Now for something completely different . . .

Jason Gregor of TSN1260 in Edmonton was looking for good hockey chirps on Friday. . . . He tweeted that a texter who had played junior hockey sent him this one: “I started chirping a guy to scrap, and his response was ‘Put a coat on; it might be cold when you wake up.” . . . D Hal Gibb, who played with the Prince George Cougars, said he “slashed Ty Rattie after he scored to complete his hat trick and he said, ‘Don’t touch me. I have more goals this period than you do in your career.’ That was a little hurtful but fair.”

A few others that showed up on Gregor’s timeline . . .

To an opponent wearing an Itech bubble mask: “Nice window . . . can I get fries with that?”

“You better pack a lunch but, ’cause I’ll be beating you for days.”

“Another kid used to call me Shrek every time we played. I scored to make it 7-0 us and skated to his bench and told him, “This is my swamp now.”

“I was filling in as PA Announcer in MedHat for the Tigers. Clarke MacArthur just returned from a Gold Medal performance with Canada at the World Jrs, and was getting chirped about punching a rookie. His answer was . . . ‘How was your Christmas? Did you like watching me on TV?’ ”

“GMAC VS NAIT in playoffs. There’s a big round guy chirping in the stands as we come off the ice. One of our dmen yells back, ‘Hey buddy gravy isn’t a beverage!!’ The crowd on both sides laughed. Priceless.”

“At a high school basketball game in Southern Alberta an elderly lady yelled, ‘Come on Ref! I’ve seen better eyes on a potato!’ ”

“I was chirping a guy who played on the Canadian World Junior Team. I kept using his name and he turned to me and said: ‘Why do you know my name but I don’t know yours?’ That hurt.”


Corona


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

An unidentified member of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters organization has Dynamiterstested positive, resulting in the postponement of the team’s next two scheduled games. From a Kootenay International Junior League news release: “The individual in question has been placed in a 14-day quarantine and the Kimberley Dynamiters organization is following the direction of the Interior Health Authority relative to further testing and contact tracing, and adhering to all KIJHL Return to Play protocols.” . . . It wasn’t revealed whether this person is a player or staff member. . . . The Dynamiters were to have visited the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday and the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Sunday. . . .

The 10-team Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League has put its schedule on hold until further notice due to a possible exposure and as the province’s numbers continue to climb. There were 480 positives announced on Friday; Manitoba’s previous single-day record had been 193. . . . Kerry Lines, the MMJHL president, told Game On Magazine: “We are taking a cautious approach due to exposure to COVID-19. We will reassess the situation on Monday. Games will be re-scheduled.” . . .

The Manitoba Female Hockey League has postponed all games until further notice. . . .

The MJHL postponed Friday and Sunday games between the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze. A scheduled Sunday assignment between the Steinbach Pistons and host Selkirk Steelers will be played tonight (Saturday). . . . After weekend games, it also will suspend games in its South East Division until further notice. The Blues, Pistons, Steelers and Freeze are in that division. . . .

The Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League has postponed all games involving the Winnipeg Bruins, Winnipeg Thrashers and Winnipeg Wild through Nov. 15. . . .

Nineteen days after testing positive, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has tested negative so is able to return to play with Juventus. He tested positive while with the Portuguese national team, but has missed four Juventus games. Ronaldo is eligible to return Sunday against host Spezia in a Serie A game. . . .

The Hockey Hall of Fame won’t have a Class of 2021. However, the Class of 2020 will be inducted during the 2021 induction weekend (Nov. 12-15, 2021). The Class of 2020 comprises Ken Holland, Marian Hossa, Jerome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Doug Willson. . . .

MLB has cancelled its owners’ meetings that had been scheduled for November and the winter meetings that were to have been held in December. Any sessions deemed necessary now will be held virtually.


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


The Saskatoon Blades have added Tyler Dietrich as an assistant coach. He fills Saskatoonthe void created when Ryan Keller, an assistant coach there since 2016, decided to step back a bit for family reasons. Keller will stay involved as a skills and development coach. . . . Dietrich, 36, spent the past four seasons involved with Hockey Canada’s video coaching program. . . . In Saskatoon, Dietrich will work alongside head coach Mitch Love and associate coach Ryan Marsh. . . . Dietrich is a former WHL player (Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Everett, 2000-05). He and Love were teammates in Moose Jaw and Everett.


Orange

Love has arrived in Saskatoon . . . Blazers’ co-owner leaves Blues . . . Ex-Winter Hawks forward dies at 52 . . . Americans say they’re staying put

MacBeth

F Emil Oksanen (Regina, 2017-18) signed a two-year contract with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). This season, as a 19-year-old, he had 16 goals and 32 assists in 58 games with Regina. . . . Oksanen played 18 games as a 16-year-old with the Espoo Blues U20 (Finland, A-Junior Liiga) for SaiPa head coach Tero Lehterä. Oksanen’s older brother attends university in Lappeenranta. . . .

D Nick Ross (Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, 2004-09) signed a one-year contract with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had nine goals and 30 assists in 56 games. He led his team in assists and was fourth in the league. . . . Ross played three seasons with Innsbruck before moving to Zvolen. . . .

D Mario Grman (Red Deer, Kootenay, 2014-16) signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). This season, with Piráti Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had one goal and four assists in 44 games. . . .

D Daine Todd (Medicine Hat, 2003-08) signed a one-year contract with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL). This season, with Örebro (Sweden, SHL), he had one goal and eight assists in 40 games. . . .

F Dane Byers (Prince Albert, 2001-06) signed a one-year contract extension with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). An alternate captain, the had 24 goals and 46 assists in 55 games.


Scattershooting

As expected, the Saskatoon Blades introduced Mitch Love as their new head on Wednesday afternoon. A rugged defenceman in his playing days, Love has spent the past seven seasons on the Everett Silvertips’ coaching staff. . . . Tyler Wawryk, the Blades’ manager of communications, has more on Love right here.

——

If you were wondering, Mitch Love, the Saskatoon Blades’ new head coach, signed a four-Saskatoonyear contract, with the club holding an option on a fifth season. . . . Ryan Keller, an assistant coach through two seasons, remains on staff, while the Blades are expected to add an assistant to replace Bryce Thoma, who was fired, along with head coach Dean Brockman, at season’s end. . . . Long-time assistant Jerome Engele also remains on the coaching staff. We can only hope he is gearing up for another season of those tweets in which he rates the post-game meals when on the road.


With Mitch Love off the market, you have to wonder when a WHL team will reach into the Portland Winterhawks’ front office and sign Kyle Gustafson as their head coach. He has been on the Portland coaching staff for 14 seasons now, the last three as associate coach. . . . You have to think the Kamloops Blazers could do a whole lot worse than to sign Matt Bardsley, Portland’s assistant general manager, as general manager and Gustafson as head coach.


The other day, all in good fun, I mused in this space that perhaps the Kamloops Blazers Kamloops1might want to bring back Bob Brown as general manager and Ken Hitchcock as head coach. . . . After all, Brown’s scouting contract with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers is soon to expire, while Hitchcock has moved into an advisory role with the Dallas Stars. . . . Well, it seems that a reader of this blog ran into Hitchcock on a golf course in Summerland, B.C., that afternoon. “I mentioned to him that I just read a rumour that he might return to Kamloops as coach,” the reader tells Taking Note in an email. “He laughed and said the only thing he would be returning for was to play golf at Rivershore . . . and he laughed some more.” . . . Great to hear that Hitch is in such good humour.


So . . . Kim Kardashian met with President Trump in the White House on Wednesday to discuss prison reform. OK, America, I can hardly wait to get out of bed today to find out how you top that one.


Darryl Sydor, who owns a chunk of the Kamloops Blazers, has left the St. Louis Blues after one season as an assistant coach, the NHL team announced on Wednesday. According to a news release, Sydor “has stepped down in order to spend more time with his family.” . . . Sydor, who retired as a player after the 2009-10 season, has been in the coaching game for the past eight seasons, five of them with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. . . . The Blues also announced that they have added Mike Van Ryn as an assistant coach. A former NHL defenceman, he spent this season as head coach of the Tucson Roadrunners, the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.


The Tri-City Americans issued a news release on Wednesday, stating that they “are tri-citycommitted to the future of hockey in the Tri-Cities, as we work to improve the facility and fan experience for the 2018-19 season.” . . . According to the Americans, the WHL, Toyota Center and the City of Kennewick “have devised a three-year plan to address the WHL’s concerns” with the state of the facility that has been the Americans’ home arena for 30 years. . . . The news release, which is right here, doesn’t include any details as to what improvements are in the works.


Ray Podloski, who played for the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, died on Monday, a few Portlanddays after suffering a heart attack. He was 52. . . . An Edmonton native, Podloski played three seasons (1983-86) with the Winter Hawks. . . . He spent 1982-83 with the AJHL’s Red Deer Rustlers, but got into two regular-season games with Portland. He also played in one game in the Memorial Cup, as the Winter Hawks won the championship. . . . H also played for Portland in the 1986 Memorial Cup, putting up two goals and five assists in four games. . . . After three seasons of pro hockey in North America, he went on to spend 15 seasons playing in Europe, retiring after the 2004-05 season. . . . Earlier, Podloski obtained his Austrian citizenship and played for that country in the 1999 IIHF World Championship. . . . He owned and operated Podloski Hockey Training in Edmonton where one of his clients was F Sam Steel, the captain of the WHL’s Regina Pats. Podloski also was the head coach with the St. Edmund Hockey Academy in Edmonton.


The Vegas Golden Knights are three victories away from winning the Stanley Cup in their first NHL season. However, assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon knows he can’t afford to think about that. Still, he knows how much his late brother, Brad, would be proud of him for the role he has played in the Golden Knight’s inaugural season. . . . Arash Markazi of ESPN has more on the McCrimmon brothers right here.


The Prince George Cougars are preparing for their 25th season in the northern B.C. city. PGCougars25Yes, it really has been 25 years since they made the move from Victoria. . . . With that in mind, they have unveiled their 25th anniversary logo. . . . According to a news release, the logo “features the Cougars’ logo over the number 25, with a banner across the front. The years 1994 and 2019 inside the banner reflect the years the organization has been operating in Prince George.” . . . You can bet the Cougars’ home schedule will be loaded with celebratory promotions.


The SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings have signed Jeff Schaeffer as assistant general manager and assistant coach. Schaeffer, who is from Weyburn, has spent the past four seasons scouting for the Red Wings. . . . The Red Wings also announced that assistant coach Brock Appleyard has left the team “to pursue other opportunities.”


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