Thunderbirds, Winterhawks will decide things tonight in Portland . . . Seattle forces Game 7 with win at home . . . Ex-WHLer named Islanders’ head coach

The only second-round WHL playoff series still in progress is going to a WHLplayoffs2022seventh game. The Western Conference semifinal featuring the No. 3 Portland Winterhawks and No. 4 Seattle Thunderbirds will be decided tonight in Portland after the Thunderbirds post a 2-1 victory in Kent, Wash., on Monday night. . . . The Winterhawks had won the two previous games that had been played in Kent. . . . This is the first series in this spring’s WHL playoffs to have needed a seventh game. . . .

The other Western Conference semifinal ended on Sunday in Langley, B.C., where the No. 2 Kamloops Blazers dropped the No. 8 Vancouver Giants, 6-0, winning that series, 4-2. . . . The Giants had eliminated the No. 1 Everett Silvertips in the first round. . . . The Blazers will meet tonight’s winner in the conference final. That series is to open with games in Kamloops on Friday and Saturday nights. . . .

The Eastern Conference final, meanwhile, will feature the No. 1 Winnipeg Ice against the No. 2 Edmonton Oil Kings. It is to begin with games in Winnipeg on Friday and Saturday. . . . The scene then will shift to Edmonton for three games — May 23, May 25 and, if necessary, May 27. If needed, the last two games are to played in Winnipeg on May 29 and May 31.



Western Conference

In Kent, Wash., F Jordan Gustafson scored the winning goal and G Thomas Milic Seattleblocked 29 shots as the Seattle Thunderbirds skated to a 2-1 victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . The series is tied, 3-3, with the final game scheduled for tonight in Portland. . . . The Thunderbirds lost the first two games in this series and also trailed 3-1 going into Game 5 in Portland on Saturday. . . . The Thunderbirds won Games 3 (5-0) and 5 (3-1) in Portland. . . . Last night, all three goals were scored in the first period. . . . F Reid Schaefer (4) gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 3:12, with F Cross Hanas (5) pulling Portland even, on a PP, at 8:29. . . . Gustafson’s third goal of the playoffs, on a PP at 12:51, stood up as the winner. . . . The Winterhawks got 34 saves from G Taylor Gauthier. . . . Tonight’s game will mark the 20th time these two teams have met this season. In the regular-season, Portland was 9-4-0, while Seattle was 4-6-3. In Portland, the Winterhawks were 4-3-0.

One former WHL player and coach now is an NHL head coach, while another nhl2lost his job on Monday. . . . The New York Islanders have named Lane Lambert as their next head coach, replacing Barry Trotz, who was fired last week with one year left on a five-year contract. Lambert has long worked as an assistant coach alongside Trotz, and such was the case with the Islanders. . . . Lambert, 57, is a native of Melfort, Sask. . . . He played two seasons (1981-83) with the Saskatoon Blades before going on to a pro career that included 283 regular-season NHL games. . . . Lambert was in his second season as an assistant coach with the Moose Jaw Warriors when he was hired as head coach of the Prince George Cougars during 2003-04. After one full season with the Cougars, he headed to the AHL where he spent six seasons. He has been in the NHL since 2011-12, first as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators (2011-14), then the Washington Capitals (2014-18). He just completed his fourth season as the Islanders’ associate coach. Before joining Nashville, he was the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, for four seasons. . . .

Meanwhile, Ryan McGill, an assistant coach with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, lost his job when head coach Peter DeBoer was fired. McGill had just completed his fifth season with Vegas. He played in the WHL with the Lethbridge Broncos, Swift Current Broncos and Medicine Hat Tigers (1985-89), then got into 151 NHL regular-season games. He began his coaching career with the Edmonton/Kootenay Ice (1996-2002), the last four-plus seasons as head coach. After spending nine seasons in the AHL (7) and NHL (2), he returned to the Ice for three seasons (2012-15) as head coach, then was in the OHL for two seasons as head coach of the Owen Sound Attack before signing with Vegas.


Robbie Ray, a left-hander who won the American League Cy Young Award with COVIDthe Toronto Blue Jays last season, isn’t with the Seattle Mariners in the Ontario city this week, leading to speculation that he isn’t vaccinated. Last season, pro athletes were exempt from COVID-19 border restrictions. That isn’t the case now. . . . Ray didn’t travel to Toronto with his teammates after a weekend series against the New York Mets. . . . As The Associated Press reported: “To enter the country, the Canadian government requires a person to have received a second COVID-19 vaccine dose — or one dose of Johnson & Johnson — at least 14 days before entry.” . . . Ray left Toronto after last season, signing a five-year, US$115-million deal with Seattle. . . . While the Mariners didn’t put Ray on the restricted list, they did put right-hander Drew Steckenrider there. He is unvaccinated so wasn’t able to travel to Toronto.


André Picard, The Globe and Mail’s highly respected health columnist, began a column last week with this:

“Canada has reached another grim milestone: 40,000 COVID-19 deaths.

“That this has been greeted with nary a shrug says a lot about how, in the 26 months since we registered the country’s first pandemic fatality, we have become inured to death.

“We have not so much learned to live with COVID-19 as we have come to not really care any more about its lethal toll.”

And he finished his column with this:

“Governments have largely stopped collecting and publishing data. But the hospitalizations and deaths won’t stop just because we avert our gaze.

“We can always mollify ourselves by saying: ‘Hey, it’s worse elsewhere.’

“The U.S. has just surpassed one million deaths, a number that is as unfathomable as it is shocking — and 2.5 times worse than Canada’s mortality rate, on a per capita basis.

“But Americans pride themselves on their selfish individualism; Canadians are supposed to be a little more collectively inclined.

“Or at least that was the perception before COVID-19 reared its ugly head.”

Picard’s entire column is right here.


My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so right here.


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



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


Or, for more information, visit right here.


Vegas franchise has WHL off-ice flavour . . . WHLers brought golden touch to Golden Knights . . . Next up: Stanley Cup final

If you’ve stopped off at this site, it means you are a hockey fan. That being the case, I hope you are enjoying the story being written by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

On May 28, the Golden Knights, who are finishing up their first season, will begin play in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.

We all know that the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, and that the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been with us since 2000-01, have yet to win a VegasGKplayoff series. We could go on and on, but you get the point.

Yes, this is quite a story. In fact, it just may be the greatest story in team sports in my lifetime.

I often wonder how many professional athletes haven’t been able to enjoy much in the way of success because they never were able to get themselves into the right place at the time. Now I wonder how much of the Golden Knights’ success is due to so many players being able to be in the right place at the right time.

And who is responsible for putting those players into this situation?

When the final chapter is written on the Golden Knights’ first season, there definitely will be a WHL slant to it. Yes, there are a number of men with WHL ties working off the ice with Vegas, mostly in areas of player personnel and scouting.

What follows is a look at some of those with WHL ties, and you know they’re enjoying this run:


Kelly McCrimmon, executive vice-president and assistant GM — McCrimmon, 57, knows hockey and he knows business, that’s why he’s such a good fit with Vegas. Under his ownership, the Brandon Wheat Kings became one of the CHL’s most-respected franchises. . . . While running the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon earned an MBA from Queen’s U in Kingston, Ont. . . . He came awfully close to joining the Toronto Maple Leafs as an assistant GM over the summer of 2015, but stayed with his Wheat Kings because he had put together a roster aiming at the WHL’s 2016 championship, which Brandon won. . . . He joined Vegas that summer. . . . Did you know: After playing two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon went on to the U of Michigan, where he played four seasons and was the Wolverines’ captain in the last one (1983-84).


Murray Craven, senior vice-president — Craven, 53, played four seasons (1980-84) with his hometown Medicine Hat Tigers. He then went on to play 1,071 NHL games, spending time with Detroit, Philadelphia, Hartford, Vancouver, Chicago and San Jose. . . . Craven was named the Golden Knights’ senior vice-president on Aug. 18, 2016, after spending two years as an advisor to owner Bill Foley. . . . Craven and Foley were neighbours on Whitefish Lake in Montana and played golf together. . . . Craven oversaw such things as designing the dressing rooms in T-Mobile Arena and the building of the Golden Knights’ practice facility, and he also has done some pro scouting. . . . Did you know: Vegas GM George McPhee was an assistant GM in Vancouver when Craven played for the Canucks.


Vaughn Karpan, director of player personnel — Karpan, 56, played 26 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 1979-80 — Kelly McCrimmon was a teammate — but is best known for playing four seasons with Canada’s national team. These days, he is widely respected as one of the premier talent evaluators in the game. . . . He scouted for Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona for 13 seasons (1992-2005), and was the director of amateur scouting for the last six of those. Karpan then spent 11 seasons with Montreal, working as an amateur scout (2005-10) before transitioning to pro scout (2010-15) and then director of professional scouting (2015-16). . . . He signed on with the Golden Knights and spent the past two seasons scouting the professional ranks. . . . This is the man with the golden eyes and an incredible feel for the game. Yes, you can bet that he had a whole lot to do with putting together the roster that is about to play for the Stanley Cup. . . . Did you know: Karpan represented Canada at two Olympic Winter Games — 1984 and 1988.


Bob Lowes, assistant director of player personnel — Lowes, 55, played with the Prince Albert Raiders and Regina Pats (1982-84), captaining the Pats in his final season. He spent nine seasons (1992-2001) as the head coach of Kelly McCrimmon’s Brandon Wheat Kings and three with the Pats (2001-04). . . . From 2006-16, he scouted for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, serving as director of amateur scouting for the last two of those. . . . Like Karpan, Lowes spent 2016-17 doing pro scouting for Vegas. . . . Did you know: When Lowes was inducted into the U of Manitoba Bisons Hockey Hall of Fame in February, he was introduced by McCrimmon.


Erin Ginnell, amateur scout — Ginnell, 49, played for five teams over two WHL seasons (1985-87). He skated for the New Westminster Bruins, Calgary Wranglers, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos. . . . He has been an NHL amateur scout since 2000-01, starting with the Columbus Blue Jackets for two seasons and one with the Colorado Avalanche. He was with the Florida Panthers for 13 seasons (2003-16), the last five as director of amateur scouting. He lost his job when the tall foreheads in Florida chose to clean house. (The Panthers, who haven’t won a playoff series since the spring of 1996, also fired Scott Luce, who had been the director of amateur scouting for eight seasons, the director of scouting for five and the director of player personnel for one. He now is the Golden Knights’ director of amateur scouting.) . . . Ginnell is the son of the late Pat Ginnell, who was a legendary coach, and the father of Kootenay Ice F Brad Ginnell. . . . Did you know: Following the crash of the Swift Current Broncos’ bus on Dec. 30, 1986, in which four players died, Erin was one of the players acquired by the Broncos to help get them through that season.


Bruno Campese, amateur scout — Campese, 54, was a goaltender who played one season (1982-83) with the Portland Winter Hawks, who won the 1983 Memorial Cup. However, the Winter Hawks added G Mike Vernon from the Calgary Wranglers — teams could add a goaltender from another team back in the day — and Campese saw only 40 minutes of playing time. . . . He also played one season (1983-84) with the Kelowna Wings. . . . Campese spent one-plus seasons as the GM/head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, before stepping aside as coach. He then spent three seasons (2012-15) as the GM. . . . This is his first NHL scouting gig. . . . Did you know: Campese played in the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, as well as the 1993, 1994 and 1995 IIHF World Championship tournaments, with the Italian national team. He has dual Canadian/Italian citizenship.


Kelly Kisio, pro scout — Kisio, 58, played two seasons with the Calgary Wranglers (1978-80) before going on to a lengthy pro career that ended after two seasons (1993-95) with the Calgary Flames. . . . He then spent 21 more seasons in the Flames’ organization, the last 18 of those with the Hitmen. At various times, he was the general manager, head coach, executive vice-president of hockey operations and, for the last three of those seasons, the president of hockey operations. Yes, it was a surprise to some that the Flames didn’t move him to the NHL side of things before losing him to Vegas. . . . His son, Brent, is the head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Did you know: Kelly played for the Swiss club HC Davos in 1982-83. In his second-last game there, Kisio recorded eight goals and two assists in a 19-7 victory over HC Lugano. Three days later, he joined the Detroit Red Wings.


Jim McKenzie, pro scout — McKenzie, 48, played two WHL seasons (1986-88) with the Moose Jaw Warriors and one with the Victoria Cougars. He totalled 21 goals in 197 regular-season games before going on to an NHL career that featured 880 games, 48 goals and 1,739 penalty minutes. . . . He has a Stanley Cup ring from the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils. . . . In the NHL, he played for Hartford, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Anaheim, Washington, New Jersey and Nashville. . . . He joined the NHL’s Florida Panthers as a pro scout in 2013-14 and spent three seasons there. . . .  Did you know: McKenzie’s hometown is Gull Lake, Sask., which also is the hometown of Roger Aldag, perhaps the greatest offensive lineman in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ history.


Ryan McGill, assistant coach — McGill, 49, played in the WHL with the Lethbridge Broncos, Swift Current Broncos and Medicine Hat Tigers (1985-89). . . . He won a Memorial Cup with the 1987-88 Tigers. . . . McGill’s playing career included 151 NHL games but was cut short by an eye injury. . . . He coached in the WHL with the Edmonton Ice and Kootenay Ice. McGill guided Kootenay to the 2002 Memorial Cup title. . . . He also has coached in the AHL and was on the Calgary Flames’ staff for two seasons (2009-11). . . . Before joining Vegas, McGill spent two seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. He was the OHL and CHL coach of the year for 2016-17. . . . Did you know: McGill has previous Knights coaching experience, having spent two seasons (2005-07) as the head coach of the AHL’s Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.


Mike Kelly, assistant coach — Kelly, 58, spent one season (2003-04) in the WHL, as the Brandon Wheat Kings’ head coach. He was fired by Kelly McCrimmon on March 1, 2004, and McCrimmon, the general manager, took over as head coach. . . . Kelly also has coached in the OHL, QMJHL and the Canadian university ranks. He also worked as an assistant coach in the NHL, with the Vancouver Canucks (2006-08) and Florida Panthers. He was in his third season with the Panthers when he was fired on Nov. 27, 2016. At the same time, the Panthers dumped head coach Gerard Gallant, who now is the Golden Knights’ head coach. . . . Did you know: Kelly worked as an assistant coach under Gallant with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs (2010-12). They won the 2011 Memorial Cup.


Ryan Craig, assistant coach — Craig, 36, played five seasons (1998-03) with the Brandon Wheat Kings and was the captain for the last two of those seasons. Obviously, he is well-connected with Kelly McCrimmon. . . . Craig’s pro career included 198 NHL games and 711 in the AHL, where he won a championship with the 2015-16 Lake Erie Monsters. . . . He retired after the 2016-17 season and was hired by the Golden Knights. . . . Did you know: Craig captained four AHL franchises — the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Norfolk Admirals, Springfield Falcons, and Lake Erie/Cleveland Monsters.


Shane Hnidy, TV analyst — Hnidy, 42, split five WHL seasons — and 327 games — between the Swift Current Broncos and Prince Albert Raiders. A defenceman, he went on to a pro career that included 550 regular-season NHL games, along with stints in the ECHL, AHL and IHL. . . . Hnidy had been part of the Winnipeg Jets’ broadcast crew for six seasons before moving to Vegas. . . . Did you know: Hnidy won a Stanley Cup with the 2010-11 Boston Bruins, getting into three regular-season games and three more in the playoffs. He retired following that season.

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