Medicine Hat rocked by suicides; mental health awareness takes spotlight . . . KHL game postponed . . . Finnish juniors have positive tests

Being a regular on social media, I was aware that Medicine Hat had been rocked by the sudden deaths of a few young men. However, I had no idea of the depth of the problem until reading this story right here that was written by the CBC’s Robson Fletcher. . . . It is most unfortunate that this story had to be written, but this is outstanding journalism. Please give it a read because this is important in today’s world.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Here is the official KHL news release:

“The Dinamo Riga vs Neftekhimik game, which was scheduled to take place on Friday, Sep. 11, is postponed. On arrival in Riga on Thursday, the Neftekhimik players underwent the obligatory express tests for SARS-CoV-2. Seven players showed positive results.

“The Neftekhimik players and staff are flying to St. Petersburg, where the entire team will prompting undergo additional testing using a combination of PCR and IgG tests. More extensive testing will provide more detailed results and help to determine what happens with the rest of Neftekhimik’s current road games.

“Further details about the rearranged date for the game between Dinamo and Neftekhimik will be announced in due course.” . . .

Jukurit, a U-20 team in Finland, has had 22 positives tests since last weekend, so all players, managers, coaches and staff are quarantining for 14 days. . . . The Jukurit team that plays in Liiga has one positive. Liiga is to open its regular season on Oct. 1. In the meantime, a number of exhibition games have been cancelled. . . . Meanwhile, HPK’s junior team also is in quarantine after three positive tests. . . .

The NCAA’s 11 hockey conferences, men’s and women’s, announced Thursday that their seasons won’t begin in October as originally was scheduled. . . . The earliest possible start date now appears to be Nov. 20. . . . Chris Dilks of sbncollegehockey.com has more right here. . . .

The Winnipeg High School Football League has postponed its 2021 fall season. It hopes to be able to have a spring season. . . . The three Brandon teams that play in the league had said earlier that they wouldn’t take part in a fall season. . . . The last time the WHSFL season was interrupted was in 1953 when a polio epidemic was on a rampage. . . .

Curling Canada has cancelled six more 2021 championships. From a news release: “The Continental Cup in Oakville, Ont., the Canadian Under-18 Championships in Timmins, Ont.; the New Holland Canadian Junior (Under-21) championships in Fort McMurray, Alta.; the Canadian Wheelchair Championship in Moose Jaw, Sask.; the inaugural Canadian Under 15 RockFest, and the U SPORTS/Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled for later in the season.” . . . Meanwhile, the 2021 Canadian senior championships still are on the schedule, with dates and host city yet to be announced. . . .

The U of Minnesota is cutting men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis, and men’s indoor and outdoor track and field from its athletic programs. The cuts will take place upon the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year. . . . School officials are projecting a loss of revenue of around US$75 million this fiscal year because of the pandemic and the Big Ten’s postponement of fall sports. . . .

The 2022 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games that were to have been held in Medicine Hat have been cancelled. . . . From a news release: “Due to COVID-19, there will be no regional competitions in 2020 and the majority of Chapters are not planning to host Provincial/Territorial Games in 2021. As a result, our ‘typical’ pathway for athletes to qualify for National Games is not possible.” . . . Brian Varga, a former WHL sniper who now is a city councillor in Medicine Hat, told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News: “We planted a seed that maybe somewhere down the road, when things get back to normal a little bit, that we might have a chance to do it again. But it’s a long ways off. Next one would be 2026, so that’s six years away, but we’re optimistic. We would be ready for it, that’s for sure. Who knows, by that time, what kind of new things and little added features that we might have in the city that would make them think about coming back here again.”


Cookies


The WHL and RE/MAX of Western Canada announced Thursday that they now whlhave raised more than $585,000 for local chapters of the Kidney Foundation of Canada through three seasons of the RE/MAX Presents: WHL Suits Up to Promote Organ Donation program. . . . The program features the auctioning of special jerseys, something that the Calgary Hitmen, Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals weren’t able to do after the 2019-20 season was cut short by the pandemic. Those teams’ sweaters will be available for bids at a later date. . . . In 2017-18, the first season of the promotion, kidney foundations benefited by approximately $265,500. That figure was about $196,600 for 2018-19. For the 2019-20 season, with three teams still to auction sweaters, the promotion brought in about $122,900.


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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

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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.


Josh Green, a former WHL player, was introduced Thursday as the general Freezemanager and head coach of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Freeze, a new team that is owned by 50 Below Sports & Entertainment. The company also owns the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues and the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. . . . Green, 42, played five seasons (1993-98) in the WHL, playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers, Swift Current Broncos and Portland Winterhawks. He was an assistant coach with the Blues in 2018-19 and filled that same role last season with the Ice. . . . The Freeze website shows Jake Heisinger as the vice-president of hockey operations. He also is the Blues’ v-p of hockey ops and alternate governor, and the Ice’s v-p of hockey operations and assistant GM. . . . Ice head coach James Patrick is shown as a consultant, while Matt Cockell, the Ice’s president, GM and alternate governor, is the Freeze’s president. Cockell also is the Blues’ governor and president. . . . Raylin Kirsch, Cockell’s wife, is the Freeze’s vice-president. She is also the v-p with the Blues and the Ice. . . . The Freeze website also shows Leah Watkins as the director of business operations, Mack Heisinger as manager of communications and digital media, Rylee Andersen as the manager of ticketing and office administration and Blake Eden as the co-ordinator of marketing and content. Those four hold the same positions with the Blues and with the WHL franchise. . . . The Freeze is to begin play with the 2020-21 season, which the MJHL hopes will begin on Oct. 9. The plan is for each team to play 40 games almost exclusively on 22 weekends with the regular season ending on March 13. . . . There is a news release right here.


Pigeon

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while thinking it’s starting to get late early these days . . .

Scattershooting

Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle has become a go-to read for me.

Of all that has gone on in recent days, she writes:

“(Athletes in their 20s and early 30s) have the pressure of short careers and massive amounts of money — both for themselves and their employers — hanging in the balance. They have all eyes on them. They are under vicious attack by many. What they are doing is organic. And it is powerful.

“Underestimate them at your peril.”

She is correct. Yes, we have seen movements similar to this in the past, but this one feels different. It really does.

I believe it was LeBron James who started the push to get out the vote, even before the past week, but now this has picked up steam, backed by the NBA and its teams. We are going to see a lot of the the facilities in which these teams play turned into polling places for the U.S.’s Nov. 3 election.

With the NBA and its teams supporting all of this, it just might provide safe havens where citizens will feel safe to cast their ballot in a place that seems to be moving closer to becoming a third-world country/dictatorship every single day.

Not that it’s going to be easy.

As Kilion also writes:

“Of course, a lifetime in diverse sports does not always make one empathetic to the concerns of others, as witnessed by the words of former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on social media, when he degraded the NBA’s actions.

“But the belittling and denouncing coming their way isn’t working. There’s too much at stake.

“ ‘These guys are so popular and secure in themselves, not only economically but as people, that they really don’t care what people are saying,’ Astros manager Dusty Baker said. ‘They are tired of what’s going on.’ “

Yes, this one feels different. It really does.


Parents


The Spokane Braves of the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey kijhlLeague posted this on Twitter on Sunday:

“After much consideration, we have elected to suspend operations for the 2020-21 season due to the uncertainty surrounding the US/Canada border. We want to thank our players, coaching staff, sponsors, billet families, volunteers, and the fans for their support. We look forward to returning to the ice for our 50th season in the KIJHL in 2021-21.”

Shortly after, the KIJHL requested that the post be removed and it disappeared.

The league is expected to announce this week that it has moved its proposed start from Oct. 2 to Nov. 13, and that a new schedule will call for each of its teams to play 30 regular-season games. Sources have told Taking Note that the 100 Mile House Wranglers also have opted out of a 2020-21 season, a move that combined with Spokane sitting out would leave the league with 18 teams. Williams Lake was to have played host to the 2020 Cyclone Taylor Cup, which decides B.C.’s junior B championship, but that went by the wayside when the KIJHL ended its season on March 13. . . . The Braves told their players last week that the franchise is stepping back for one season.


Let’s give columnist Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post the award for the best lede of 2020. With the Post having uncovered even more sleazy revelations involving the NFL’s Washington franchise and its owner, Jenkins started her column with: “This is what the NFL gets for not scraping Daniel Snyder off its shoe before now.”


“That 6½-foot asteroid hurtling our way has only a 0.41 per cent chance of striking Earth, astronomers say,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Or, to put it in terms a baseball fan can understand, there’s a 99.59 per cent chance that Angel Hernandez would call it a strike.”

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Perry, again: “Owning a dog is a plus for men trying to get a date, according to Dr. Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. And it’s double-bonus points if you just so happen to own the Knicks.”

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Perry is on a roll: “The Brooklyn Nets are interested in hiring Gregg Popovich away from the Spurs as their next head coach, The Athletic reported. And in a related story, the Jets covet Bill Belichick and we’d like to win the Lotto.”


Argue


Bob Molinaro, in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “As I type this, the Red Sox have the American League’s worst record. They are irrelevant, in other words.  Somebody remind ESPN’s programming department.”


Beaver

COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

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The Anchorage Daily News reports that the U of Alaska-Fairbanks hockey team is in quarantine after six players and an athlete from another school team tested positive following an off-campus party on Aug. 22. The paper reported that 21 other hockey players and head coach Erik Largen, along with six other athletes, will be quarantine until at least Sept. 5 after being exposed to those who tested positive. . . .

Another MLB game was postponed on Sunday after a member of the Oakland A’s organization tested positive. The A’s were to have played the host Houston Astros. Instead, the team ended up self-isolating in Houston. . . . Since this season started, five teams now have had positive tests within their organizations. . . . “It should be noted,” wrote Mike Axisa of cbssports.com, “this is the first time a team in the West region has had a positive COVID-19 test. MLB went with regional play this year to reduce exposure (i.e. East vs. East, Central vs. Central, West vs. West) and now all three regionals have experienced some level of outbreak. This is also the first positive test among American League teams.” . . .

French tennis player Benoît Paire withdrew from the U.S. Open after testing positive. Ranked 22nd in the world and seeded 17th in the tournament that is to open today (Monday), he was to have met Kamil Majchrzak of Poland on Tuesday. . . . While Paire self-isolates for at least 10 days, four other French players — Richard Gasquet, Grégoire Barrère, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Adrian Mannarino — were confined to their hotel rooms until further notice. . . .

Humourist Brad Dickson, via Twitter: “Some say I’m not nice to the non-maskers but that’s not true. I wish them nothing but the best and encourage them to stick with the night classes until they get their G.E.D.’s.”



In the NBA world, Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers is known as Playoff P. But as TNT analyst Charles Barkley explains: “You can’t be calling yourself Playoff P and lose all the time. . . . They don’t call me Championship Chuck.”


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.


Titanic


It doesn’t seem likely that the OHL will continue to investigate allegations of ohlhazing brought against it by F Eric Guest, 20, who played three seasons (2016-19) with the Kitchener Rangers. . . . You may recall that earlier this summer Guest posted a video on social media in which he detailed some alleged hazing incidents, one of which included the use of cocaine. . . . Having twice tried to contact Guest and not having received a response, David Branch, the OHL commissioner, said in a statement that “we have assumed that Mr. Guest is not prepared to meet and provide the assistance required for the OHL to conduct an investigation into his allegations.” . . . In June, the Rangers asked Waterloo Regional Police to conduct an investigation, but, according to Mark Pare of kitchenertoday.com, “Guest reportedly told police he didn’t wish to proceed with a criminal investigation into the matter.”


Randy Wong has signed on as general manager and head coach of the Medicine Hat Cubs of the junior B Heritage Hockey League. Wong, 53, is from Redcliff, Alta., which is a slapshot or two west of Medicine Hat. He played one game with the Medicine Hat Tigers (1983-84) and 32 with the New Westminster Bruins (1985-86). . . . He also worked as an assistant coach with the Tigers (1997-2001). . . . In 2018-19, he was the head coach as the U18 Medicine Hat Hounds won the provincial AA title. . . . Wong takes over from GM Dave Kowalchuk and coaches JD Gaetan and Steve Leipert. . . . Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News reports that the Cubs’ new board of directors has chosen to combine the positions “as a cost-cutting measure.”


JUST NOTES: Columnist Ed Willes’s 22-year run at the Vancouver Province ends today. Yes, Postmedia is shuffling another one out the door, which means neither Vancouver daily employs a sports columnist. There was a time in the newspaper business when that would have been seen as something of an embarrassment, especially with the Canucks in the hunt for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. . . . His weekly Musings column always was worth a read, and the one he filed on Sunday night is right here. . . . If you’re looking for more good reading with your morning coffee, you can’t go wrong with Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, the latest edition of which is right here. . . . Remember that item I referred to a week ago, the one I had ordered from walmart.ca but now, according to tracking, was in Jamaica, N.Y. Well, I checked on Friday evening and it was still in Jamaica. Except that it showed up in our mailbox on Thursday afternoon. So Trump’s tracking seems to be working about as well as Trump’s Postal Service.


Mask

Cozens to have ‘procedure’ on thumb. . . . Hamblin’s knee injury not serious. . . . Saskatchewan all atwitter over new Gainer


MacBeth

F Andrew Clark (Brandon, 2005-09) has signed a one-year contract with Langenthal (Switzerland, Swiss League). Last season, in 52 games with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 49 assists. He led the league in assists and was tied for the lead in points. . . .

D Juraj Valach (Tri-City, Vancouver, Regina, Red Deer, 2006-08) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 44 games with with Piráti Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had three goals and five assists. . . .

D Jonathon Blum (Vancouver, 2005-09) has signed a two-year contract with Färjestad Karlstad (Sweden, SHL). Last season, with Dinamo Minsk (Belarus, KHL), he had three goals and seven assists in 35 games. . . .

F Colton Gillies (Saskatoon, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract extension with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL). Last season, he had one goal and four assists in 35 games. . . .

F Mark McNeill (Prince Albert, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 56 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL), he had eight goals and 17 assists. . . .

F David Rutherford (Vancouver, Spokane, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract with Lyon (France, Ligue Magnus). Last season, with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite), he had 18 goals and 39 assists in 54 games.


ThisThat

F Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes suffered an injury to his left thumb during the Buffalo Sabres’ development camp on Saturday. He absorbed a hip check — it was a clean hit — and in trying to soften the landing, he put out his left hand, only to be injured when he landed awkwardly. . . . The above tweet from the Sabres came one day after Cozens was seen by a specialist. . . . While the thumb wasn’t broken in the mishap, it appears to have been dislocated, so he will undergo a ‘procedure’ today. . . . The Sabres selected Cozens with the seventh-overall pick of the NHL’s 2019 draft.


Guy Flaming, the owner, operator and host of The Pipeline Show (patreon.com/thepipelineshow), asked fans on Twitter the other day: “If there was ONE thing that you could change/add/remove from the Canadian Hockey League, what would it be and why?”

Some responses:

“I’d add another OA player to teams. Improves the overall hockey fans get to watch and puts a player who’s not quite ready for major junior back in midget. Improving the on-ice competition also improves development of all players.”

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“More imports. With the U.S. and Euro junior leagues catching up to the CHL in quality, while also allowing players to keep NCAA eligibility, the CHL needs to cut into that. One way would be increasing imports to 4 or 5 up from 2. Cuts into European junior League talent.”

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“A way better TV deal with regional and national broadcasts.”

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“An online streaming service, where fans across Canada pay $60 a year to get any regular-season game of any team and then $30 for the playoffs, regulate the streams so they are good quality and call it a day.”

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“WHL should change the bantam draft age from 15 to 16. Makes the draft more entertaining for the average fan because there will be a chance for the players to play immediately, and it wouldn’t be as much of a crapshoot for the teams.”

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“Fighting. There is no need for teenagers be fighting in the CHL. Too many are paying the price with their health both now and down the road.  Really can anyone give a valid reason as to why teens are fighting in the CHL? Everyone else is banning it; time for the CHL to get rid of it.”

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“Memorial Cup hosted by a U.S. team.”

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“I’d add a Canadian U-17 team that would play games in all three major junior leagues and be our team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. I love the USA hockey model in the USHL with U-18 and U-17 teams.”

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“Lighten the schedule a little. More time for skills development practice. More time for workouts and recovery. More time for personal time, mental health.”

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Flaming also tweeted that he is preparing to interview Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, for an upcoming show. Perhaps Flaming could ask the WHL commish about a regular-season schedule that has the Portland Winterhawks and Prince George Cougars playing each other four times in six days. Seriously! They will meet Dec. 3 and 4 in Portland, then head north and go at it in Prince George on Dec. 7 and 8. . . . The WHL schedule always seems to have its share of quirks, but methinks it will be tough to top this one.


There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping here, why not consider donating to the cause? All that’s involved is clicking on the DONATE button over there on the right and following the instructions. Thank you very much.


You may have read here about F James Hamblin of the Medicine Hat Tigers suffering a dislocated kneecap while attending the Toronto Maple Leafs’ development camp last week. . . . It turns out that the injury isn’t as bad as it originally appeared. . . . He told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News that “the pain was horrible.” . . . And then it was over. Just like that. . . . “Once they stretchered me off,” he told McCracken, “just as we got to the room we kind of hit a bump and it popped back in, and it was basically instant relief,” said Hamblin. “It went from an unbearable pain to nothing in an instant.” . . . Hamblin will undergo surgery, albeit minor, to remove a piece of cartilage that was revealed to be loose during an MRI. . . . Hamblin had 33 goals and 44 assists in 67 regular-season games last season. The Tigers’ captain each of the previous two seasons, Hamblin is prepping for his fifth season in Medicine Hat. . . . McCracken’s complete story is right here.


The gang at capfriendly.com reports that Day 1 of NHL free-agent frenzy resulted in the signings of 125 contracts covering 239 years with a total cap hit of $218,986,001. The total contract dollars involved were $704,499,000. . . . On Tuesday, which was Day 2, the totals were 10 signings covering 19 years, with a total cap hit of $8,509,167, and total dollars of $17,525,000. . . .

Meanwhile, the first day of NBA free agency was Sunday. Teams promptly committed more than $3 billion to 45 players.


Geoff Grimwood has filed a lawsuit in B.C. Provincial Court in Kelowna, claiming that the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors owe him $29,166, plus interest, after he was fired late last season. . . . You may remember that Grimwood was the team’s interim general manager and head coach when he was fired early in the season, only to be rehired when the players chose not to practice and went on a hike instead. Grimwood was rehired after the boycott, but was fired again on Jan. 28 by owner Kim Dobranski. . . . Wayne Moore of castanet.net has more right here. . . . Grimwood now is the GM/head coach of the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders.


Matt Samson, the general manager of the junior B North Vancouver Wolf Pack, also will be the head coach in 2019-20. Samson stepped in as an assistant coach during last season and helped the club win the Pacific Junior Hockey League championship. . . . Samson takes over from Bayne Koen, who left after five years and now is the head coach of the bantam prep White team at Delta Hockey Academy. He also is the director of player development with the PJHL’s White Rock Whalers.


ICYMI, the Saskatchewan Roughriders throttled the visiting Toronto Argonauts on Monday evening, improving their CFL record to 1-2. You would think that the Roughriders having won their home-opener would be cause for excitement in Saskatchewan, but you would be wrong. Instead, football fans are confused/angered/upset/dismayed/up in arms (pick one, or insert your own) over the new-look Gainer. It seems that Gainer spent a chunk of his off-season at the Gopher Spa and came back with a brand new look. . . . There’s more right here.


Tweetoftheday

Scattershooting on a doink-doink NFL Sunday . . . ‘Canes move to top of division . . . Miner digging second shutout

Scattershooting


Thanks to friend Jack Finarelli (aka The Sports Curmudgeon) for passing along the link to Gene Collier’s annual Trite Trophy-related column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. . . . This is the 35th annual and Collier starts it with this:

“Some in our cherished audience might find it unfathomable that the Trite Trophy has been around for 35 years, but all I need for confirmation is to Look In The Mirror, where the ravages delivered by three-and-half decades of cliché wrangling are mercilessly evident.

“It’s Not A Good Look.”

It seems that Collier isn’t much of a hockey guy, so “good stick,” “compete level” and “200-foot player” didn’t make the cut.

What did make it is all right here. Enjoy!


“I’m not saying Houston Rockets star James Harden travels a lot,” writes RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “He just plays basketball like it’s a good walk spoiled.”

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One more from Currie: “World Chess champion Magnus Carlsen is reportedly a major celebrity at home in Norway. And good news ladies, he isn’t married — although he has been mated.



When the Kootenay Ice visits Brandon on Jan. 18, the Wheat Kings are holding a promotion involving the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Surely it’s only a coincidence that the Ice, who appear headed to Winnipeg after this season, will provide the opposition on that particular night. . . . World-class marketing, or trolling?


If you haven’t already done it, you need to make Patti Dawn Swansson’s blog — The River City Renegade — a regular part of your Sunday morning.

Here’s a snippet from the latest posting:

“The Lord of Loud, Donald S. Cherry, weighed in on Canada’s demise at the world junior tourney during the Coachless Corner segment of HNIC, suggesting that our guys were beaten as payback for running up the score (14-zip) vs. Denmark. ‘You don’t beat them down like that or you pay the price,’ he said. ‘I’ve said it before, the hockey gods will get you or karma will get you.’ If karma has anything to say about it, Grapes will be wearing nothing but a loin cloth in his next life as punishment for those gawdawful suits he exposes us to on Saturday nights.”

It’s all right here.



A note from Brad Dickson on the topic of social media: “If Albert Einstein posted his brand new Theory of Relativity on Facebook it’d probably receive about 3 or 4 ‘likes’. If he then posted a photo of the Einsteins with the family dog it’d get 400 ‘likes’.”



When I worked at the Winnipeg Tribune in the mid-1970s, Bob Picken was The Voice. . . . These days, writes Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun, “The Voice remains unmistakable, if a little weaker than it was in its prime.” . . . Picken was diagnosed with terminal cancer in September. “I will live out my days as best they are and I will be very grateful for what God has given me,” the man we all know as Pick says. . . . Friesen’s piece is right here. If you read one thing on the Internet today, this should be it. . . . Farewell, Pick!


“Los Angeles Chargers guard Forrest Lamp gave each of his teammates — drum roll, please — lamps for Christmas,” notes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, teammate Davon House didn’t think of it first.”


shoes


After some people noticed that Kendall Jenner was missing from the Kardashian Christmas photo, comedy writer Alex Kaseberg noted: “And we thought things couldn’t get worse than with the government shutdown.”


If you didn’t notice, things were a big soap opera-ish with the Pittsburgh Steelers down the stretch. As tight end Jesse James told Penn Live: “Ah man, we are — Kardashians.”



ThisThat

There’s nothing like a good sporting rivalry and it seems that things are very much alive with the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades.

The Raiders, the top-ranked team in the 60-team CHL, beat the visiting Blades, 5-2, on whlSaturday night.

After the game, Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, gave Saskatoon general manager Colin Priestner an assist.

Habscheid said that Priestner, according to Jeff D’Andrea of panow.com, “has gone around saying that the Blades are the superior team over the Raiders, after the Blades’ recent trades.”

Habscheid told D’Andrea: “They added a little bit of motivation to us. It got back to us that their general manager . . . they’ve added some players and now he thinks they’re better than us. That added to our motivation, so thanks for that.”

When contacted by Taking Note, Priestner issued a blanket denial, and said he was shocked when he first heard Habscheid’s comments on the pregame show on Saskatoon radio station 98 COOL FM.

“I have no idea what the hell he is talking about,” the Blades’ GM said. “I’ve never once thought that let alone uttered it. I’ve also never heard a head coach mock another team’s GM on their own radio station out of the blue. It was kind of bizarre when I heard it driving to the game in PA. With the incredible roster his GM (Curtis Hunt) has given him, he really shouldn’t need to make up fake statements from me to get any wins.”

The Raiders (35-4-1) have the WHL’s best record. The Blades (24-12-5) are second in the East Division, 18 points behind the Raiders.

Prince Albert leads the eight-game season series, 5-1-0; the Blades are 1-4-1.

Unfortunately, these teams aren’t scheduled to meet again until March 15 and 16, the final weekend of the regular season, when they will play a home-and-home series.


Shaun Clouston, the general manager and head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers, added Tigers Logo Officialsome clarity to the injury situation involving a couple of his forwards on Sunday.

Clouston told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News that F Ryan Chyzowski suffered a skate cut near on knee on will be see a doctor today. Chyzowski was injured during a 4-3 loss to the host Calgary Hitmen on Saturday.

Clouston also told McCracken that F Hayden Ostir, who suffered a knee injury during a 5-3 victory over the visiting Kootenay Ice on Friday, is likely to be gone longer than Chyzowski.

The Tigers have two home games scheduled for the weekend — Friday against the Regina Pats and Saturday against the Edmonton Oil Kings.


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SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Lethbridge Hurricanes moved into first place in the Central Division with a 5-2 Lethbridgevictory over the Oil Kings in Edmonton. . . . Lethbridge (21-10-8) has points in five straight (3-0-2). . . . Edmonton (21-14-7) has lost two in a row. . . . The Hurricanes have a one-point lead over the second-place Oil Kings, with the Red Deer Rebels and Medicine Hat Tigers three points off the pace. . . . Lethbridge won 47 of 69 faceoffs while being outshot, 41-26. . . . F Jalen Luypen (5) gave the Oil Kings a 1-0 lead at 3:25 of the second period. . . . The Hurricanes responded with three goals before the period ended, from F Dylan Cozens (23), on a PP, at 5:57; F Logan Barlage (10), at 8:23; and F Taylor Ross (23), at 16:06. . . . D Conner McDonald (9) pulled the home side to within a goal, on a PP, at 1:10 of the third. . . . Lethbridge responded with two more goals, from F Noah Boyko (4), on a PP, at 12:07, and F Jordy Bellerive (20), at 18:04. . . . Cozens also had two assists. . . . The Hurricanes got a big game out of G Liam Hughes, who finished with 39 stops.


F Andrej Kukuca and F Noah Philp each had two goals as the Seattle Thunderbirds Seattledoubled the host Regina Pats, 6-3. . . . Seattle (12-20-4) had lost its previous seven games (0-6-1), and now is 1-1-0 on a six-game East Division swing. It is five points away from a playoff spot now. . . . Regina (12-27-2) has lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . The Thunderbirds outshot the Pats, 47-22, including 20-4 in the first period and 16-6 in the third. . . . Kukuca, in his first game since playing for Slovakia at the WJC, opened the scoring at 7:34 of the second period. . . . F Robbie Holmes (9) tied it, on a PP, at 9:04. . . . F Matt Wedman (12) put Seattle back in front at 12:09. . . . Regina tied it, again, when F Sebastian Streu (2) scored, on a PP, at 18:30. . . . Seattle then outscored its hosts 4-1 in the third period. . . . Philp, who also had an assist, made it 3-2 at 1:54, only to have Regina F Riley Krane (8) tie it, on another PP, at 4:16. . . . The Thunderbirds then got two PP goals — from D Jarret Tyszka, at 8:59, and Kukuca (9), at 13:12. . . . Philp, who has 15 goals, completed the scoring at 17:52. . . . Regina got 41 saves from G Dean McNabb. . . . The Pats were playing their third game in fewer than 48 hours, having lost 2-1 in OT in Saskatoon on Friday and 1-0 in Swift Current on Saturday. . . . G Roddy Ross, 18, made his first start for Seattle and earned the victory with 19 saves. He had signed with Seattle on Tuesday after playing with the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. . . . F Henry Rybinski, who had an assist, and F Michael Horon, both 17, made their Seattle debuts. Rybinski was acquired from the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday, while Horon joined the Thunderbirds last week from the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes. Seattle acquired him from the WHL’s Hurricanes on Wednesday. . . . Among Seattle’s scratches were D Cade McNelly (suspended), F Sean Richards (suspended), F Dillon Hamaliuk, who won’t play again this season, and D Loeden Schaufler.


The host Saskatoon Blades scored the game’s last three goals and beat the Brandon SaskatoonWheat Kings, 5-2. . . . Saskatoon (25-12-5) is second in the East Division, seven points ahead of the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Brandon (16-15-6) now is four points from a playoff spot. . . . The Blades were playing their third game in fewer than 48 hours. They beat the visiting Regina Pats 2-1 in OT on Friday, then were beaten 5-2 by the Raiders in Prince Albert on Saturday. . . . F Ben McCartney (9) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead 53 seconds into the game. . . . The Blades went ahead 2-1 on goals from F Max Gerlach (24), at 3:52, and D Reece Harsch (3), at 7:30. That was Harsch’s first goal since being acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds on Wednesday. This was his third game with the Blades. . . . F Luka Burzan (23) tied it, on a PP, at 19:16. . . . Saskatoon F Josh Paterson (13) broke the tie, on a PP, at 3:27 of the second period. . . . The Blades iced it with two third-period goals from F Zach Huber (8), at 7:45, and D Emil Malysjev (2), into an empty net, at 19:26. . . . The Blades were credited with winning 39 of 55 faceoffs. . . . Brandon lost F Baron Thompson to a headshot major and game misconduct at 13:59 of the second period. Saskatoon D Majid Kaddoura, who took the head, left for repairs but returned to finish the game. . . . Brandon scratched  F Linden McCorrister, meaning the Wheat Kings were without any 20-year-olds. . . . The Blades again were without F Kiby Dach and D Nolan Kneen, both out with undisclosed injuries.


G Trent Miner stopped 24 shots to help the Vancouver Giants to a 6-0 victory over the VancouverKootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B.C. . . . Vancouver (24-12-2) had lost its previous four games. It finished a six-game Central Division trip at 2-4-0, and leads the B.C. Division by nine points over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Kootenay (8-27-7) has lost seven in a row (0-6-1). . . . The Ice went 0-3-0 in playing three games in fewer than 48 hours. . . . F Milos Roman (17) gave the Giants a 1-0 lead at 4:11 of the first period and that’s all the visitors would need. . . . They also got goals from F Brayden Watts (9), F Jadon Joseph (13), F Dawson Holt (6), F Lukas Svejkovsky (4) and D Dallas Hines (5). . . . Hines, who was acquired from the Ice on Friday, scored the game’s last goal, on a PP, at 19:37 of the third period. . . . Trent posted his second career shutout, both of them coming this season. He is 11-3-1, 1.84, .933, in 16 appearances.


G Max Palaga turned aside 37 shots as the Everett Silvertips defeated the visiting EverettKamloops Blazers, 5-1. . . . Everett (31-8-2) has won two in a row; it also has won 11 straight on home ice. The Silvertips lead the Western Conference by 13 points over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Kamloops (15-19-3) is fourth in the B.C. Division, five points behind the Kelowna Rockets. The Blazers hold down the Western Conference’s second-wild card spot, four points ahead of the Prince George Cougars. . . . Palaga, who is from Kamloops, spent last season with the Blazers, who released him prior to this season and later dealt him to Everett for a sixth-round selection in the 2020 WHL bantam draft. In seven appearances with the Silvertips, Palaga, 18, is 4-0-1, 1.56, .950. . . . The Silvertips scored the game’s first five goals, getting snipes from F Zack Andrusiak (29), D Wyatte Wylie (7), F Connor Dewar (28), F Conrad Mitchell (1) and D Gianni Fairbrother (5). . . . Mitchell’s first WHL goal came in his 26th game. He is a 17-year-old freshman from Thorsby, Alta. . . . F Max Patterson, who also is from Kamloops, had two assists. . . . F Brodi Stuart (12) scored for Kamloops at 13:48 of the third period. . . . The Blazers lost 4-1 to the Chiefs in Spokane on Friday, then beat the visiting Kelowna Rockets 4-1 on Saturday, Kamloops was back on its bus right after that game in order to get to Everett for this game, which started at 4 p.m. . . . Everett also was playing its third game in fewer than 48 hours, having split a home-and-home with the Tri-City Americans on Friday and Saturday nights, losing the first one 3-2 in Kennewick, Wash., and then winning 4-1 at home. . . . Everett swept the season series with Kamloops, outscoring the Blazers, 23-6 in the process. In the four games, Everett was 11-20 on the PP and 11-12 on the penalty kill. . . . The way things are shaping up, these teams could very well meet in the first round of the playoffs.


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Will Red Wings return Rasmussen to Americans? . . . Swift Current adds defenceman . . . Designer of WHL logo dies at 58

MacBeth

F Colton Gillies (Saskatoon, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL). Last season, he was pointless in six games with Dinamo. He was injured (shoulder) in early October 2017 and was out for the rest of the season. . . .

F Jesse Mychan (Everett, Tri-City, 2011-13) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Esbjerg (Denmark, Metal Ligaen) after obtaining his release from Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga). He had two assists in five games with Nitra this season. . . .

F Kaspars Saulietis (Kelowna, Regina, 2006-08) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with HK MOGO Riga (Latvia, Optibet Liga). Last season, he had eight goals and seven assists in 25 games with Nové Zámky (Slovakia, Extraliga).


ThisThat

Could F Michael Rasmussen soon be on his way back to the Tri-City Americans?

Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA, tri-cityRasmussen, 19, has to play with the Red Wings or the Americans. Detroit selected him ninth overall in the 2017 NHL draft.

Rasmussen, from Vancouver, opened the season with the Red Wings, and was a scratch for the first time on Monday as Detroit, which is 0-4-2, lost 7-3 to the Canadiens in Montreal.

In five games, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Rasmussen has one assist while averaging 12 minutes 34 seconds of playing time, including 2:05 per game on the PP.

Of course, the Red Wings have some time to make a decision because they won’t burn the first year of his three-year contract unless he plays a 10th game.

Last season, with the Americans, he had 59 points, including 31 goals, in 47 games. Then, in 14 playoff games, he added 16 goals and 17 assists.

In 161 regular-season games, all with Tri-City, he has 157 points, 81 of them goals.


The Swift Current Broncos, who open a tour of the B.C. Division tonight, have added D SCBroncosAustin Herron to their roster. Herron, 17, could be in the lineup tonight when the Broncos meet the Vancouver Giants. . . . This season, the native of Abbotsford, B.C., had one goal in eight games with the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles. Last season, he had one goal and five assists in 38 games with the major midget Okanagan Rockets, who play out of Kelowna. . . . He was selected by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the third round of the 2016 WHL bantam draft.


The Spokane Chiefs have signed D Mike Ladyman to a WHL contract. Ladyman, from SpokaneChiefsWinnipeg, has been on the Chiefs’ protected list since November. The 17-year-old has one goal and eight assists in eight games with the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues. Last season, he had two goals and 21 assists in 60 games with the Blues. . . . Ladyman is expected to be in the Chiefs’ lineup tonight when they meet the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . The Regina Pats selected Ladyman in the fifth round of the 2016 WHL bantam draft.


There seems to be a he-said, he-said situation ongoing in Medicine Hat, where the one Tigers Logo Officialthing not in doubt is that veteran F Gary Haden has asked for a trade. . . . On Sunday, Haden told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News, via text: “I asked for a trade on Thursday morning and was told to go home Thursday afternoon.” . . . On Monday, McCracken tweeted: “Tigers HC Shaun Clouston says Haden requested a trade then left on his own. The team is in no immediate rush to make a deal.” . . . Clouston is the long-time general manager and head coach in Medicine Hat. . . . Haden, 19, is from Airdrie, Alta. He has 25 goals and 28 assists in 115 career regular-season games with the Tigers. Last season, he had 17 goals and 25 assists in 70 games. This season, he recorded a goal and two assists in nine games.


Keith Flynn, the owner/operator of Flynnagain Productions, died in hospital in whlKitchener, Ont., on Oct. 9. He was 58. . . . Flynn designed the WHL logo, along with numerous others. . . . This is from his Linked In site: “The company began in April 1997 with our first client, the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL. Over time, our company has created designs spanning North America with clients ranging from Roger Clemens to John Daly, Microsoft to the AHL. Our league logos include the WHL, IFL, SPHL, PASL, PBL and IHL as well as Baseball Canada’s logo. This last year Flynnagain Productions created designs for MTV’s Rob Dydek, the Raptor’s DNBA affiliate, Erie Bayhawks and the NHL Calgary Flames.” . . . Chris Creamer of sportslogos.net has more right here, including a look at some of the logos that were Flynn’s work.


The BCIHL’s Trinity Western Spartans have started their season with three straight victories, the latest a 4-1 victory over Simon Fraser U on Saturday night. . . . Interestingly, the Spartans won’t play again until Oct. 19 and 20 when they visit the Hamline University Pipers, a Division III team that plays out of St. Paul, Minn., and the U of Minnesota Gophers, a Top 10 team in Division I. . . . The Spartans are the BCIHL’s reigning champions, so the game with the Gophers will be an interesting test. . . . This season, the Gophers are 2-0-1, having tied (1-1) and beaten (7-4) the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and then dropped the USA U-18 side, 7-1.


Brandon West, who has been a BCHL head coach for four years, has joined the Penticton Vees as an assistant coach. West, with a career head-coaching record of 91-77-12-16 in the BCHL, was with the Surrey Eagles last season when they got into the second round of the playoffs. . . . West, who is from Kelowna, will work alongside Fred Harbinson, the president, general manager and head coach, and fellow assistant coaches Jason Becker and Matt Fraser.


One regular reader writes of Taking Note: “Definitely the best source of info for junior hockey, and really enjoy the writing. It’s one of my first visits every morning.” . . . If you agree, feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and make a donation to the Taking Note cause.

Scattershooting while watching Brady vs. The Kid . . . Haden wants a trade . . .Giants hand Royals first loss . . . Weekend sweep for ‘Tips

Scattershooting

Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, with a good question: “Idle thought: Was Orioles manager Buck Showalter fired? Or was he granted clemency?”


Another question, this one from me: Do the New York Yankees bring back Buck Showalter or Joe Girardi to replace Aaron Boone, whose handling of his pitching staff oftentimes was mystifying?



A note from humourist Brad Dickson: “It hasn’t been easy to resist the siren call of fantasy football. Indeed in 2018 playing fantasy sports has become America’s new pastime, having supplanted the erstwhile, laudable pursuits of Fidget-spinning, dabbing and searching for Pokemon.”


With the NBA season almost upon us, it’s worth noting that the sports books in Las Vegas have taken more bets on the L.A. Lakers winning the title than on any other team. As Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports  Babe, noted: “If anyone wondered how they got the money to build all those big hotels.”


When you’re watching an NFL game on CTV, don’t you get the feeling that the network could squeeze in at least one more promo for an upcoming show if it really tried?


Just last week, with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations having announced that she is leaving the post, Donald Trump suggested he might appoint his daughter, Ivanka, if not for the likelihood that he would be accused of nepotism. Here’s Hough: “Well that and it would interfere with her current duties as his real VP and First Lady.”


“The Nashville Predators, knocked out in Round 2 of the 2018 playoffs, raised three banners commemorating last season,” writes RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “I think one of them was for participation.”


Currie, again: “I heard on Sportsnet that the first requirement of a top-notch NHL goalie is a short memory. Hand me some goalie pads; I’m going to be an all-star!”


How naive am I? I had no idea that junior hockey players are using match-making apps like Tinder to meet up with young women while on the road.


Some scores for you to digest: 41-7, 59-1, 38-8, 79-7, 48-24, 36-16, 53-0, 48-7. . . . Those are the scores that carried junior football’s Saskatoon Hilltops to an 8-0 regular-season record.



ThisThat

F Gary Haden has asked the Medicine Hat Tigers to trade him.

Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News reports that Haden, 19, made the request on Tigers Logo OfficialThursday, and that the Tigers sent him home on Friday.

This season, Haden had a goal and two assists in nine games. Last season, he had 17 goals and 25 assists in 70 games.

A ninth-round selection by the Regina Pats in the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft, the native of Airdrie, Alta., has 53 points, including 25 goals, in 115 regular-season games, all with Medicine Hat.

The Tigers acquired Haden on Jan. 10, 2016, when they sent F Cole Sanford to the Pats and also got back F Brian Williams, a third-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft, a fifth-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018.


The WHL’s Department of Discipline is just like New York City — it never sleeps. . . . On whlSunday, the DoD issued three suspensions resulting from incidents in Saturday night games. . . . F Ryley Appelt of the Kamloops Blazers was given a two-game suspension after taking a charging major and game misconduct during a 7-2 loss to the Silvertips in Everett. Originally, Appelt was penalized for a headshot, but was changed to charging. . . . D Josh Brook of the Moose Jaw Warriors got one game after being hit with a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct during a 4-3 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs. . . . F Mike MacLean of the Prince George Cougars also got one game, this one for a boarding major and game misconduct during a 6-5 shootout victory over the host Lethbridge Hurricanes. MacLean sat out the Cougars’ 2-1 OT victory over the host Kootenay Ice on Sunday.


F Brad Goethals, 20, who left the Saskatoon Blades earlier this month, now is with the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders. . . . They acquired his rights from the Selkirk Steelers over the weekend, giving up F Noah Basarab, 19, a 2019 sixth-round draft pick and future considerations in the exchange. . . . Goethals had 16 goals and 17 assists in 72 games with the Blades last season. . . . Goethals had a goal on Sunday, helping the Stampeders to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Steinbach Pistons.


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SUNDAY NIGHT NOTES:

The Vancouver Giants handed the host Victoria Royals their first loss of this regular-Vancouverseason, beating them, 3-2. . . . The Royals (7-1-0) had beaten the visiting Giants, 3-2 in OT, on Saturday night. . . . The Royals now are 5-1-0 at home. All eight of their games to this point have been against B.C. Division opponents. . . . At 7-0-0, the Royals had tied the franchise record for best start to a season. Last season, they also opened with seven straight victories. . . . The Brandon Wheat Kings now are the only one of the WHL’s 22 teams not to have lost in regulation time. The Wheat Kings (5-0-2) are scheduled to entertain the Spokane Chiefs on Tuesday. . . . Vancouver has points in seven straight (6-0-1). . . . The Giants were playing their third game in fewer than 48 hours, having beaten the Kamloops Blazers, 4-3 in a shootout, in Langley, B.C., on Friday night. . . . F Milos Roman (5) scored twice for Vancouver; he’s got goals in four straight games. . . . F Brayden Watts (3) got the winner when he broke a 2-2 tie at 16:21 of the second period. . . . The Giants held a 40-20 edge in shots. . . . Vancouver G David Tendeck stopped 18 shots in his third straight start. . . . Trent Miner, Vancouver’s other goaltender, missed all three games as he travelled home to Brandon after the deaths of both of his grandfathers. . . . According to the online scoresheets, the Giants didn’t dress a backup goaltender for any of the three weekend games.


The Prince Albert Raiders scored the game’s last four goals to beat the Blades, 6-2, in PrinceAlbertSaskatoon. . . . The Raiders (10-1-0) are the first WHL team to 10 victories this season. They have won three in a row and now led the overall standings by three points over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The Blades (7-3-0) had won four in a row. . . . F Brett Leason (9) led the Raiders with two goals and an assist. He’s got at least a point in each of the Raiders’ 11 games. . . . Leason broke a 2-2 tie at 17:12 of the second period. . . . D Brayden Pachal (1) added a goal and two assists for Prince Albert. . . . Leason now is tied for the lead in the WHL’s points race. He and F Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks have 22 points apiece. . . . Leason leads the WHL in goals with nine.


The Everett Silvertips completed a weekend sweep by beating the Winterhawks, 4-2, in EverettPortland. . . . The Silvertips (6-3-0) were playing their third game in fewer than 48 hours, having beaten the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings, 5-3, on Friday, and the Kamloops Blazers, 7-2, on Saturday. . . . The Winterhawks (5-3-1), who had been 5-0-1 in their previous six games, hadn’t played since Wednesday. . . . Everett got 30 saves from Dustin Wolf, who is the only goaltender the Silvertips have used to this point in the season. Wolf is 6-3-0, 1.90, .922. . . . The Winterhawks were 0-10 on the PP. . . . F Connor Dewar had two assists for Everett, giving him 14 points, including seven helpers, in nine games.


G Taylor Gauthier turned aside 45 shots to help the Prince George Cougars to a 2-1 OT PrinceGeorgevictory over the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B.C. . . . The Ice held a 46-27 edge in shots, including 21-5 in the third period. . . . Each team was playing its third game in fewer than 48 hours. . . . The Cougars lost 4-1 to the Tigers in Medicine Hat on Friday, then beat the host Lethbridge Hurricanes, 6-5 in a shootout, on Saturday. . . . The Ice lost 3-2 to the visiting Regina Pats on Friday night, then dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Tigers in Medicine Hat on Saturday. . . . On Sunday, F Jackson Leppard (1) gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead at 13:32 of the second period. . . . The Ice pulled even at 3:39 of the third on a goal by F Peyton Krebs (3). . . . F Ilijah Colina (3) won it 33 seconds into extra time. . . . The Ice (3-4-1) has lost three in a row (0-1-2). . . . The Cougars improved to 4-5-1. . . . Prince George was without F Josh Maser and F Mike MacLean, both of whom were serving WHL-issued suspensions.


F Nick Henry scored 14 seconds into OT to give the visiting Regina Pats a 4-3 victory over Patsthe Calgary Hitmen. . . . D Aaron Hyman (3) had pulled the Pats (3-6-0) into a 3-3 tie, on a PP, at 11:06 of the third period. . . . Henry, who also had two assists, won it with his second goal of the season. . . . The Hitmen slipped to 1-5-2. . . . F Jake Leschyshyn (4) had a goal and two assists for Regina. . . . F Cole Dubinsky, who won’t turn 16 until Dec. 4, scored his first goal for the Pats. From Ardrossan, Alta., he was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. . . . F Tristen Nielsen was back in Calgary’s lineup after serving a three-game suspension.


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Veteran forward off Tigers’ roster . . . Royals still perfect after seven games . . . Broncos get first win, head west


ThisThat

Following a 4-1 victory by the Medicine Hat Tigers over the visiting Prince George Tigers Logo OfficialCougars on Friday, Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat Tigers tweeted: “Tigers not commenting on the status of Gary Haden, who was scratched from tonight’s game.” . . . Prior to Saturday’s game, in which Medicine Hat beat the visiting Kootenay Ice, 4-3 in a shootout, McCracken reported that “Haden is no longer on the (Tigers’) roster.” . . . After the game, Shaun Clouston, the Tigers’ general manager and head coach, told McCracken that Haden’s absence will be addressed on Monday. . . . Haden, 19, is from Airdrie, Alta., who was a ninth-round selection by the Regina Pats in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. . . . This season, he had one goal and two assists in nine games. Last season, he had 17 goals and 25 assists in 70 games. . . . In 115 career regular-season games, he has 25 goals and 28 assists.


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SATURDAY NIGHT NOTES:

F Kaid Oliver scored with 25 seconds left in OT to give the host Victoria Royals a 3-2 VictoriaRoyalsvictory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The Royals are 7-0-0 overall, including 5-0-0 at home. All seven victories have come against B.C. Division opponents. . . . The Giants (7-1-1) have points in six straight (5-0-1). . . . Oliver (6) finished with two goals and an assist. . . . F Brandon Cutler (3) gave Victoria a 2-1 lead at 13:08 of the second period. . . . F Milos Roman (3) scored on a PP at 3:36 of the third period to tie it 2-2. . . . The same teams will play in Victoria again today, 3:05 p.m.


G Joel Hofer stopped 53 shots through OT and his Swift Current Broncos went on to win SCBroncosfor the first time this season, beating the host Brandon Wheat Kings, 3-2 in a shootout. . . . The Broncos got shootout goals from F Alec Zawatsky and F Max Patterson. . . . Swift Current improved to 1-7-0. . . . The Wheat Kings (5-0-2) have yet to lose in regulation time. . . . F Stelio Mattheos (7) had both Brandon goals. . . . D Garrett Sambrook, acquired from Brandon earlier in the week, was in the Broncos’ lineup. . . . After the game, the Broncos boarded their bus and headed west. They next are scheduled to play on Tuesday in Langley, B.C., against the Vancouver Giants. . . . The Broncos will play all five B.C. Division teams on the trip, covering it in eight days. Interestingly, they will go Kamloops-Prince George-Kelowna, playing the last three games of the swing in five nights. Most teams on a B.C. Division trek play in Kelowna and Kamloops on back-to-back nights, then finish in Prince George two nights later.


F Brett Leason had a goal and an assist as the Prince Albert scored a 2-1 victory over the visiting Red Deer Rebels. . . . Leason’s goal, his seventh, broke a 1-1 tie five minutes into the third period. . . . He now is riding a 10-game point streak, with seven goals and 12 assists over that stretch. Last season, he had one goal in 12 games with the Tri-City Americans, then added 15 goals and 17 assists in 54 games after being dealt to the Raiders. . . . The Rebels had been 5-0-1 in their previous six games. . . . The Raiders (9-1-0) are to play in Saskatoon on Sunday afternoon. The Blades are 7-2-0 and have won four in a row.


F Daemon Hunt had two goals and an assist to help the host Moose Jaw Warriors to a 4-3 MooseJawWarriorsvictory over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . The Chiefs had points in their previous six games (4-0-2). They are 1-1-0 on their East Division trip. . . . The Warriors have points in six straight (4-0-2). . . . Hunt, 16, is from Brandon. He was a first-round pick in the 2017 WHL bantam draft. . . . Hunt’s first WHL goal gave the Warriors a 3-2 lead, on a PP, at 4:17 of the third period. His second goal broke a 3-3 tie at 11:49. . . . D Ty Smith scored twice for Spokane, his first goals this season. . . . The Warriors lost D Josh Brook to a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct for a hit on Spokane F Ethan McIndoe at 6:02 of the third period.


D Jake Lee had four assists — giving him seven in two games — as the Seattle Thunderbirds dumped the Edmonton Oil Kings, 7-3, in Kent, Wash. . . . F Noah Philp had two goals and an assist for Seattle. Philp had never scored more than once in a game before scoring four times on Wednesday. . . . F Dillon Hamaliuk had a goal and two assists for Seattle, and has points in all seven games this season. He’s got 15 points, including six goals. . . . Seattle is 3-0-1 in its past four games. . . . The Oil Kings went 0-5-0 in a five-game U.S. Division trip. Overall, they have lost seven in a row (0-6-1). . . . Edmonton D Conner McDonald played in his 200th regular-season game.


The Everett Silvertips scored five PP goals as they beat the visiting Kamloops Blazers, 7-2. . . . The Silvertips, who had a 57-20 edge in shots, held a 3-1 lead when Kamloops F Riley EverettAppelt was given a headshot major and game misconduct at 13:34 of the second period. Everett blew it open with three goals on the ensuing PP. . . . Kamloops F Jermaine Loewen sat out Game 3 of a four-game suspension. He won’t play Friday against the visiting Swift Current Broncos, and may be joined by Appelt and D Montana Onyebuchi on the sideline. Onyebuchi was given an interference minor, misconduct and game misconduct at 6:43 of the third period, and may be hearing from the WHL office. . . . F Riley Sutter (4) had two goals and an assist for Everett, with D Jake Christiansen drawing three assists. . . . Everett F Dawson Butt scored for a second straight game. He finished last season with one goal and two assists in 45 games. This season, he has three points, two of them goals, in five games. . . . The Blazers’ losing streak has reached seven (0-6-1) after they opened the season with two victories. . . . The Silvertips, who beat the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings, 5-3, on Friday, are scheduled to visit the Portland Winterhawks today, 5 p.m. That will be Everett’s third game in fewer than 48 hours; the Winterhawks haven’t played since dropping the visiting Oil Kings, 8-2, on Wednesday.


The Prince George Cougars scored three shootout goals and beat the Hurricanes, 6-5, in PrinceGeorgeLethbridge. . . . D Cole Moberg (2) of the Cougars forced OT with a goal at 15:26 of the third period. . . . Prince George then outscored the hosts 3-2 in the shootout to snap a four-game losing skid. . . .  Moberg got the winner, breaking a 2-2 tie in the third round of the shootout. . . . G Isaiah DiLaura stopped 49 shots for the Cougars. . . . F Josh Curtis (3) had two goals and an assist for the visitors. . . . Prince George lost F Mike MacLean to a boarding major and game misconduct at 6:54 of the second period. . . . The Cougars, who lost 4-1 to the Tigers in Medicine Hat on Friday, are to meet the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B.C., this afternoon for their third game in fewer than 48 hours.


F Ryan Jevne scored in the sixth round of a shootout to give the host Medicine Hat Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Goals from ex-Tigers F Jaeger White (3) and F Jakin Smallwood (1) had given the Ice a 3-2 lead midway through the third period. . . . The Tigers forced OT when F Ryan Chyowski (3) scored at 15:59. . . . F Tyler Preziuso drew three assists for Medicine Hat. . . . The Ice, which lost 3-2 to the visiting Regina Pats on Friday night, is at home to the Prince George Cougars this afternoon. That will be Kootenay’s third game in fewer than 48 hours.


The Tri-City Americans scored the game’s last two goals and beat the Rockets, 5-4, in tri-cityKelowna. . . . F Riley Sawchuk (4) tied the game, 4-4, with his second goal of the game, at 14:35 of the third period, and F Isaac Johnson (5) snapped the tie, on a PP, just 27 seconds later. Johnson finished with two goals and an assist. . . . The Rockets (2-9-0) are 0-6-0 on home ice. . . . Kelowna had beaten the Americans, 3-2, in Kennewick, Wash., on Friday. . . . G Talyn Boyko stopped 24 shots in his first WHL start for the Americans. The 6-foot-6 Boyko, who is from Drumheller, Alta., will turn 16 on Nov. 16. Tri-City selected him in the third round of the 2017 bantam draft. . . . F Michael Farren, acquired on Thursday from the Saskatoon Blades, was pointless in his debut with the Rockets.


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A special Kidney Walk for Dorothy . . . A milestone for the Blades’ voice . . . Some tidbits from opening weekend

MacBeth

G Matt Hewitt (Regina, 2010-13) signed a one-year contract with Fassa Canazei (Italy, Alps HL). Last season, with University of British Columbia (Canada West, U Sports), he got into 20 games, going 12-5-2, 2.85, .920 with one shutout. . . . This summer, Hewitt played with CBR Brave Canberra (Australia, AIHL). In 26 games, he drew three assists, while going 23-2-0, 1.95, .925 with three shutouts. He led the league in wins, shutouts, GAA and SP. . . . CBR Brave won the AIHL championship, beating the Sydney Bears 4-3 in OT in the league’s Grand Final on Sept. 2 in Melbourne. . . .

F Marcel Noebels (Seattle, Portland, 2010-12) has been released from his PTO with the Boston Bruins (NHL) and will rejoin Eisbären Berlin (Germany, DEL), where he is an alternate captain for this season. Last season, he had 11 goals and 19 assists in 52 games with Eisbären. . . .

F Nikita Popugayev (Moose Jaw, Prince George, 2015-18) has been traded by CSKA Moscow to Amur Khabarovsk (both Russia, KHL) for D Denis Nedilko (1999 born, playing for Amur’s junior team, Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk). Popugayev had two goals and one assist in three games this season with Krasnaya Armiya Moscow (Russia, MHL). . . . Krasnaya Armiya is CSKA’s junior team. MHL is Russia’s junior league.


ThisThat

I’m back after being away for a few days while we put the finishing touches on the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk. If you hadn’t guessed, Dorothy and I were among the organizers for the Kidney Walk that was held on Sunday at McDonald Park.

Yes, it was a success! Oh, was it!!

Let me tell you a little bit about it . . .

Dorothy had her kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013, after almost four years of doing peritoneal dialysis, so this Kidney Walk marked the fifth anniversary of her new life.

Drinnanfamily
The Drinnan family, with the cake (donated by the North Shore Safeway) that celebrated the fifth anniversary of Dorothy’s kidney transplant.

We knew it was going to be special because our granddaughter Kara brought her parents — our son Todd and his wife, Joanna — to the Walk from their home in Burnaby.

Then, as Dorothy and I got out of our car at McDonald Park, a couple came walking in our direction. It turned out to be our best friends from Brandon — Darlene and Alan Silvius, who arrived completely unannounced. They actually had arrived in town on Saturday, but didn’t breathe a word about it. In fact, at one point, Darlene actually had sent a text to Dorothy indicating that they were in Portage la Prairie, Man., visiting with friends.

DrinnanSilvius
Darlene and Alan Silvius joined us at the Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sunday. Darlene and Dorothy have a special relationship.

Back in the day, Darlene was adamant that she would be the person to give a kidney to Dorothy. But it turned out that she wasn’t a match. Still, she refused to give up, and turned to the Kidney Paired Donation program.

So it was that five years ago she donated a kidney to a stranger in order to allow Dorothy to receive a true gift of life from someone else.

These two women have long had a strong relationship, but for the past five years they have grown even closer.

The look on Dorothy’s face when her brain finally recognized what her eyes were trying to tell her was priceless indeed.

All of you who read this blog and have donated on Dorothy’s kidney page were a big part of our day, too. In the end, Dorothy raised $3,250, which left her No. 1 in Kamloops for a fifth straight year.

Thank you all so much for your support. It really does mean a lot.

Now let’s get back to hockey . . . although it’ll be a bit spotty this week because, well, we’ve got some company to tour around.


In the meantime, here are some notes from the past few days. . . .

Old friend Les Lazaruk, who I may (or may not) have owned on the Strat-O-Matic field back in the day, opened the regular season with something of a milestone broadcast . . .


Aside from that milestone, the weekend’s biggest story may have been in Moose Jaw where the 50-50 draw at the Warriors’ home-opener on Saturday night reached $383,450.

There were two unclaimed winning pots from last season, so the carryover to this season was $166,615.

The winning ticket on Saturday was Z423428. As of Sunday morning, the jackpot apparently had yet to be claimed.

Now wouldn’t that be a carryover!


On the eve of the regular season, Trevor Crawley of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman provided this note on the Kootenay Ice:

“The current season-ticket count rests at 1,670, a drop of 247 from last year. The club had set a goal for 2,500 as part of it’s Drive to 25 campaign that kicked off in May 2017.” . . . The announced attendance at the Ice’s home-opener — a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday — was 2,862. . . . F Connor McClennon, the second overall selection in the 2017 WHL bantam draft, scored twice for the Ice. A 16-year-old from Wainwright, Alta., he was pointless in five games with the Ice last season.


The Brandon Wheat Kings opened by sweeping a home-and-home series with the Moose BrandonWKregularJaw Warriors, winning 2-1 in the Wheat City and 4-2 on the road. . . . G Jiri Patera, a 19-year-old rookie from Praha, Czech Republic, recorded both victories. A sixth-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL’s 2017 draft, Patera stopped 56 of 59 shots in the two victories. . . . Patera is the first European goaltender to play for the Wheat Kings in the franchise’s 52-year history. . . . The Wheat Kings have had at least one American-born goaltender in their history — Scott Olson, from Bloomington, Minn., got into 63 games over three seasons and was a part of the 1978-79 championship team that lost only five regular-season games.


A couple of WHLers signed three-year entry-level NHL deals on the weekend. . . . D Josh Brook of the Moose Jaw Warriors signed with the Montreal Canadiens. Brook, 19, is from Roblin, Man. He was picked in the second round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. Brook scored both Moose Jaw goals as the Warriors dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday night. . . . F Jake McGrew, a 19-year-old from Orange, Calif., signed with the San Jose Sharks after being a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL draft. McGrew has been with the Spokane Chiefs for two seasons, although knee problems kept him from playing in 2016-17.



The Red Deer Rebels released D Colin Paradis on Saturday in order to get down to the maximum of three 20-year-olds. . . . Releasing Paradis left them with F Brandon Hagel, F Reese Johnson, who is the team captain, and F Jeff de Wit as their 20-year-olds. . . . Paradis, from Sherwood Park, Alta., has played 194 regular-season games — the first 165 with the Moose Jaw Warriors — over four seasons.


F Owen Blocker of the Lethbridge Hurricanes left the ice on a stretcher in the first period of Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the Tigers in Medicine Hat.

According to Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News, Blocker “targeted Dalton Gally Lethbridgefor a hit in the corner and went awkwardly into the boards. Blocker was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a lengthy delay and did not return.” . . . However, after being checked out at hospital and released, Blocker returned to the arena and returned to Lethbridge with his teammates after the game.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes added G Akira Schmid to their roster on the weekend, after he was assigned by the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.

Schmid, 18, is from Nesslau, Switzerland, and was a fifth-round selection by the Devils in the NHL’s 2018 draft.

He joins Reece Klassen, a 19-year-old from Cloverdale, B.C., and Carl Tetachuk, 17, from Lethbridge, as goaltenders on the Hurricanes’ roster. Klassen went the distance in the Hurricanes’ first two games as they split a home-and-home with Medicine Hat. The Tigers won 5-2 in Lethbridge on Friday.


The Portland Winterhawks got Danish F Joachim Blichfeld, 20, back from the NHL’s San PortlandJose Sharks as the WHL regular-season opened. Blichfeld, a seventh-round pick by the Sharks in the NHL’s 2016 draft, has signed a pro contract so is eligible to play with the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate. . . . Blichfeld’s arrival left the Winterhawks with four 20-year-olds and three imports on their roster. . . . Blichfeld joined F Conor MacEachern, D Brendan De Jong and D Jared Freadrich as the 20-year-olds. . . . MacEachern didn’t play in a 5-3 loss to the host Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday, while MacEachern sat out Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Silvertips in Everett. . . .

WHL teams have until mid-October to declare a maximum of three 20-year-olds. . . . Should the Winterhawks choose to keep Blichfeld, they would have to release either Czech F Michael Kvasnica, 18, or Swiss F Dean Schwenninger. . . . Kvasnica and Schwenninger are first-year players, but teams are allowed to trade freshman imports only between Dec. 15 and the Jan. 10 trading deadline. Prior to this season, teams were permitted to trade first-year imports. . . . Schwenninger didn’t play in either of the two weekend games. . . .

D Henri Jokiharju, a 19-year-old from Finland, is in camp with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. He was named to the WHL-Western Conference’s second all-star team last season, and may still end up back in Portland.

Should that happen . . . well, I’m sure the Winterhawks won’t concern themselves with that until it actually does happen.


The Kelowna Rockets went 8-0-0 against the Kamloops Blazers last season. The Blazers Kamloops1showed on opening weekend that things are different now. Kamloops swept a home-and-home series, winning 4-1 at home on Friday and 3-1 in Kelowna on Saturday. . . . Serge Lajoie, the Blazers’ first-year head coach, picked up his first WHL victory on Friday and his family — wife Kelly and their children (Isabelle, 17, and Marc, 15) were there to witness it, having made the trip from their home in St. Albert, Alta. . . . “Up until (Thursday) night, I was texting with my daughter and my son and they made me believe they were both getting ready for bed and they were going to get up to go to school this morning,” Lajoie told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week. “It’s nice to be able to share this with them. I’m not here if it isn’t for them. I don’t lose sight of that.”


The Prince Albert Raiders opened with a two-game sweep of Regina, snapping a 15-game losing skid to the Pats with the first victory. The Raiders got started with a 7-2 victory on home ice on Friday, then travelled to Regina and beat the Pats 3-1 on Saturday. . . . The Raiders last beat the Pats on Sept. 23, 2016, when they posted a 4-3 OT victor in Regina on a goal by F Simon Stransky.


The Saskatoon Blades opened with a two-game sweep of the defending-champion Swift Current Broncos, winning 2-1 on the road and 8-0 at home, behind 17 saves from G Nolan Maier. . . . F Kirby Dach put up seven points in the two games, including three goals and two assists in Saturday’s shutout victory. . . . Only time will tell if this is a sign of things to come for the Blades, who have missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, and the Broncos, who went all-in last season in putting together the team that would win the Ed Chynoweth Cup.


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Scattershooting: The Memorial Cup, a flawed playoff format and more

Scattershooting

The tears hadn’t yet dried in Regina on Monday night when the bleating began on social media, with some fans crying for a change in the format of the four-team Memorial Cup tournament.

The Pats, the host team for this year’s tournament, had just dropped a 3-2 decision to the whlhost Swift Current Broncos in Game 7 of an opening-round WHL playoff series.

Of course, that means the Pats are finished until the Memorial Cup begins, something that is more than 40 days away.

A year ago, it was the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, the host team for the 2017 tournament, who got bounced in the first round. They came back, under head coach Rocky Thompson, a former WHL player and coach, to win the whole thing.

But, the social media gurus wanted to know, how is it fair that a team can lose in the first round and still win the national championship?

No, it isn’t right. But it’s time for people to realize that the Memorial Cup stopped being a national championship in 1983, which is when the present format that includes a host team was adopted.

If you ask around the WHL, those who have been involved in championships will tell you that the Memorial Cup doesn’t carry the cachet of a WHL championship. They also will tell you that playing in the round-robin Memorial Cup can be a letdown after taking part in a gritty, competitive best-of-seven championship series.

Now that we have that out of the way . . .

What the WHL needs to do is admit that its present playoff format is flawed, and — if it isn’t just providing lip service about wanting to minimize travel for its players — go back to having the first two rounds within each division. After the first two rounds, the division champions meet for conference titles, and the two survivors play for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

The WHL likes to think of itself as a mini-NHL, which is why the present format — one that includes two wild-card entries in each conference — is in place. What’s good for the NHL is good for the WHL, or so the thinking goes.

This playoff format proves that isn’t always the case.

Late last month, with the first round unfolding, the WHL sent its commissioner, Ron Robison, on tour. He started in the Pacific Northwest, mostly doing damage control after that debacle in the Oregon State Legislature in Salem involving minimum-wage legislation, but he also addressed the playoff format.

“We really feel like this is the best format and it works really well for our league,” Robison told Brandon Rivers of dubnetwork.ca. “First of all, when you consider the travel demands on our players, we want to really have those games in the first round in the division, because travel is limited. At the same time, it helps with your rivalries. . . .

“If you look throughout our league in each division, we have some great rivalries. Why not get that competition level really up high in the playoffs and see how it goes from there. There’s pros and cons but, generally speaking, this format makes a lot of sense for our league.”

Later, while in Medicine Hat, Robison told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News:

“I think when you look into it, it’s more than just the seeding of teams in a playoff competition, whether it’s conference format or a divisional format. For us, in this particular case it’s about the fact that we can reduce travel from the players’ standpoint, we can take advantage of the great rivalries we have.”

We will assume that Robison said this with a straight face, even though he was in BrandonWKregularMedicine Hat, the home of the Tigers, a team that ended up playing the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round in two straight years. That also meant travelling to Dauphin, Man., where the Wheat Kings played their first-round home games in both series because their home arena had been taken over by the annual Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.

Had the WHL used a divisional playoff format, the Tigers would have met the Calgary Hitmen in last season’s first round, and the Kootenay Ice this time around. The Ice, of course, didn’t even make the playoffs this season, thanks to the wild-card format.

Using the divisional format, the Wheat Kings would have clashed with the Moose Jaw Warriors in this season’s first round. Instead, Brandon ousted Medicine Hat in six games.

(In the Western Conference, the Tri-City Americans, a wild-card entry, swept the B.C. Division-champion Kelowna Rockets. In a divisional format, Tri-City would have opened against the Everett Silvertips, with Kelowna meeting the Kamloops Blazers, who didn’t qualify under this system.)

The present wild-card format also has other flaws.

For starters, the Saskatoon Blades didn’t make the playoffs despite having more victories and more points than two Eastern Conference teams that did advance.

This format also means that every first round includes four series that feature teams that finished second and third in each division. That means that teams that were awfully good over 72 games exit early. Two more awfully good teams are going to go home after the second round, too.

The biggest flaw, however, is that there now is the perception that the wild-card system can be gamed.

I’m not saying that’s what happened this season, but you may recall that the Wheat Kings were third in the overall standings — and third in the Eastern Conference and East Division — when the trade deadline arrived on Jan. 10. A third-place finish in the division would have meant a first-round meeting with Swift Current.

The Wheat Kings chose to trade away two top-end players — defenceman Kale Clague and forward Tanner Kaspick — for a bundle of future assets.

In the end, Regina moved past Brandon into third place, and, as we saw, lost out to Swift Current in the first round. The Wheat Kings ended up in possession of the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, which sent them into the playoffs against Medicine Hat, which had finished atop the Central Division, albeit with four fewer victories and five fewer points than Brandon.

The Wheat Kings now will open the second round against the host Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday. The Wheat Kings finished the regular season with more victories (40-33) and more points (85-72) than the Hurricanes.

There can be no arguing that the Wheat Kings ended up with an easier route to the conference final than they would have had with a third-place finish in their division. Of course, the Hurricanes may have something to say about that.

There also can be no arguing about the job done by Brandon general manager Grant Armstrong, who added nine assets, including four first-round bantam draft picks, in those two transactions.

Inadvertent or not, he seems to have helped his club improve its playoff odds.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, Tri-City, the first wild-card entry, will meet the TriCity30Victoria Royals in the second round, meaning it avoids a potential clash with Everett or the Portland Winterhawks for another round. Everett and Portland are preparing for a second-round series after the Winterhawks beat the visiting Spokane Chiefs, 3-1, in Game 7 last night.

Who knows how all of this will play out, but it all leaves me with one question:

What will be the reaction by the WHL pooh-bahs should Brandon and Tri-City, a pair of wild-card teams, end up in the championship final?


I recently came into possession of the feature stories written this season by Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun that focus on former Wheat Kings players. This was the second season in which Bergson has written one of these stories each week, and they are most enjoyable. If you can find them, I highly recommend them. I also wonder why more junior hockey writers — assuming that they really love to write — haven’t followed Bergson’s example by producing stories like these.


The fact that none of the numerous Hockey Insiders had the scoop on the retirements of Daniel and Henrik Sedin says a lot about the longtime Vancouver Canucks forwards. Obviously, there aren’t any leaks in the world of the future Hockey Hall of Famers. They were true to themselves right to the end.


Sooner or later, the WHL should be issuing a news release detailing the involvement by its 17 Canadian teams in the organ donor awareness program this season. You may recall that, among other things, the teams wore Don Cherry-tribute sweaters and then made them available via auction. I am guessing that the promotions raised well over $300,000 for the four western branches of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.


On Sept. 9, 1965, left-hander Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw a perfect game. Yes, Vin Scully called it. Right here for your reading enjoyment, courtesy salon.com, is that call. It is, as is mentioned here, “pure baseball literature.”