Washington governor expected to ban large gatherings . . . Would impact two WHL teams . . . Junior B series opener postponed


Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., at which, according to the Everett Herald, he is expected to “announce a ban on events and social gatherings attended by more than 250 people” as the area continues to battle COVID-19.

It is believed that an initial ban would impact Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Everett, the home of the WHL’s Silvertips, is the county seat and the largest city in EverettSnohomish County. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds play out of SeattleKent, Wash., which is located in King County.

It will also affect the MSL’s Seattle Sounders, Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves and XFL’s Seattle Dragons.

The Thunderbirds have three home games remaining — on Saturday (Vancouver), Tuesday (Spokane) and March 21 (Portland).

The Silvertips have one home game remaining, on March 20 against the Victoria Royals.

Later Tuesday, the Silvertips announced the cancellation of the Silvertips Radio Show “until further notice.” It was broadcast live from Sporty’s Beef & Brew, featuring play-by-play voice Mike Benton and appearances by players. Last night’s show was available via the Internet.

On Tuesday, Inslee said the banning of large gatherings, including sporting events, is under consideration.

“I would not be shocked if we have some more news on that in the next few days,” he said. “If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming, not just what’s here today.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll in the state from COVID-19 had reached at least 23, with more than 190 confirmed cases. Inslee said he expects that number to grow rapidly.

On Monday evening, Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, had displayed a chart that features five levels of actions. Washington state already has moved through Level 2 and, Hayes said, “We are at the ready to institute the third level. Level 3 includes “involuntary isolation of those sick” and “involuntary quarantine of those who have interacted with those sick.”

Hayes added: “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant . . . But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”

Level 4 involves ordering the “cancellation of major public and large private gatherings,” which would appear to be where at least three counties now find themselves.


With less than two weeks remaining in its regular season and the playoffs scheduled to open on March 27, the WHL has announced a handful of operational changes in response to COVID-19.

It has ordered the “elimination of handshakes between teammates, opponents and whlofficials,” while also impressing upon teams that players not share water bottles or towels.

The WHL also has asked all teams to “avoid direct contact with fans, including high-fives, handshakes, and autographing of items.”

The WHL’s statement didn’t make mention of whether it has looked at other options, such as playing games in empty arenas or even postponing/cancelling games.

While the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers, for two, have said they will abide by the WHL’s request, Saskatoon radio station CKOM reported that the Blades “aren’t putting limitations on fans.”

The station reported that “Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades, told 650 CKOM the team isn’t planning on following the recommendations, and autograph sessions will continue as scheduled.”



In Everett, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced that its men’s and women’s basketball championships are moving from Everett Community College to Clackamas CC in Oregon City, Ore., and Linn-Benton CC in Albany, Ore. . . . The tournaments were to have been played last weekend at Everett CC and, in fact, three women’s games were played on Thursday before the campus was shut down because of coronavirus concerns. A student from Everett CC later tested positive. The campus received a thorough cleaning and reopened on Monday.

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Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, the start of a junior B playoff series between the Oceanside Generals and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has been postponed. The North Division final was to have started Tuesday night in Parksville, but BC Hockey said several Campbell River players are self-isolating with flu-like symptoms. . . . Gerry Bickerton, the Generals’ president, told Nanaimo NewsNOW that his team is healthy. “Hockey-wise it’s frustrating but public safety-wise this has to be done,” Bickerton said. “With what’s happening right now, BC Hockey went and did their questioning and they’ve made their decision.” . . . It is hoped that the series now will begin Saturday in Parksville. . . . Alex Rawnsley’s story is right here. . . . As of Tuesday night, there hadn’t yet been a positive test for coronavirus on Vancouver Island.


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported via Twitter on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Kings “have banned their scouts from plane travel because of the COVID-19 virus. If they can’t drive to the game, they’re not to go.” . . . Campbell followed that up with: “Buffalo Sabres scouts are still flying, but not to Europe. They’ve also told their scouts that if they feel uncomfortable about flying, they don’t have to fly.”


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Some of Tuesday’s other developments . . .

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors played a home game in front of fans on Tuesday night, despite an aggressive recommendation from the City of San Francisco on Friday that all large, non-essential events be cancelled. . . . This isn’t sitting well with city officials. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the online news site Mission Local. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” . . . The Warriors have said that they don’t plan any changes before their next home game, either. That game is scheduled for Thursday. . . .

The NBA will hold a conference call involving team owners on Wednesday afternoon during which they will discuss possible moves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each franchise was required to have “several contingency plans in place” by Tuesday, including “an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist, the identifying of a specific facility to test for coronavirus and a plan to limit the number of team and arena staff members that would interact with players.” . . . On Wednesday, the owners are expected to discuss the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. . . .

The Austrian EBEL (Erste Bank Ice Hockey League) cancelled the remainder of its season, with the German DEL quick to follow suit. . . . The EBEL features teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. A statement from the league stated that “no championship title will be awarded in the 2019-20 season.” . . . The DEL statement read, in part: “The DEL is forced to end the current season. . . . The reason for this is the banning by federal states of events such as DEL games with more than 1,000 spectators. . . . Due to the premature end of the season, there is no German champion this year. As the main round winner, the EHC Red Bull Munich, together with the Adler Mannheim, the Straubing Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin, represent the DEL in the Champions Hockey League (CHL 2020-21).” . . .

Igor Eronko, a Sport-Express hockey writer and KHL-TV commentator, tweeted that “Moscow plans to cancel all the sports events with more than 5,000 spectators. . . . It will definitely affect the KHL playoffs.” . . .

For an in-depth look at postponements, cancellations and more from the hockey world, check out this right here from Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog. There is a whole lot of information here. . . .

The Ivy League shut down all spring football practices, effective Tuesday morning and running through at least April 5. . . .

The Ivy League also cancelled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were to have been played this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The Princeton women and Yale men were awarded the league’s NCAA tournament bids. . . . The Ivy League also made the decision to limit attendance at all sporting events through the end of its spring season. . . .

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cancelled the rest of its state boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey and boys swimming tournaments. . . . The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association has also cancelled its playoffs. . . .

Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has recommended all indoor games be played without spectators. That would include the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, whose next home game is scheduled for March 24. . . . DeWine tweeted that “for indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents and others essential to the game.” . . . The Blue Jackets later issued a statement, saying that they have been in contact with the NHL and “it has been determined that our scheduled games, including Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticket fans that wish to attend.” . . . The Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland starting on Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy. Thus, they won’t be open to the public. . . .

The Big West Conference will play its conference tournaments without fans in the buildings. The men are to play this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim; the women will play at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. . . .

The Zac Brown Band has postponed a spring tour. . . . BMI, a music rights management company, has postponed its Latin Awards that had been scheduled for Los Angeles on March 31. A new date hasn’t yet been chosen. . . . The Coaches Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was to have run April 10-12 and April 17-19, has been postponed to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. It annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. . . . Stagecoach, a country music festival, also has been postponed. It, too, is held at the Empire Polo Club. Originally scheduled for April 24-26, it now is to be held Oct. 23-25.



I have spent the past couple of days cleaning out a filing cabinet. Of course, it never gets done as quickly as it should because, well, there are all of those old stories to read.

Like the one about when the WHL officially stopped referring to 20-year-old players as overage. The decision was made at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on April 2, 1985, when it also was decided to allow teams to dress three such players, up from two.

“I’m pleased about the move to three 20-year-olds,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “We also decided to eliminate the word ‘overage’. From now on, those players will be referred to as 20-year-olds.”

At the same meeting, the WHL made 12-year-olds ineligible to be placed on teams’ protected lists. Prior to that decision, a 12-year-old took up two spots on a team’s list.

The WHL, at the time, continued to allow the listing of 13- and 14-year-old players without any restrictions.


Scattershooting on Saturday night while chuckling over Pop’s latest thoughts . . .

Scattershooting

The NHL told its teams on Saturday that they could restrict admission to their dressing rooms in an attempt to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. . . . The league chose NHLnot to impose the restrictions, while leaving the decision up to each of its 31 teams. . . . If a team chooses to close its dressing room to the media, coaches and players will be made available in interview areas. . . . Earlier in the day, the New York Islanders, who lost to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2 in OT, enforced the media restriction. “We will . . . pro-act to what we’re all going through to try and prevent as much potential associations with anybody who somehow contracted something,” Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders’ president and general manager, said.“We cannot control the amount of press that go in the room who have credentials, who come from everywhere. It’d be different if we knew the people.”

At the same time, the Washington Capitals and Penguins had their dressing rooms open after a Saturday afternoon game in Pittsburgh, which the visitors won, 5-2, and the Anaheim Ducks opened their room to the media after a practice session. The San Jose Sharks didn’t open their room after a pratice, and the Dallas Stars kept their room closed after a 1-0 loss to the visiting Nashville Predators. The Los Angeles Kings also kept their room closed after beating the visiting Minnesota Wild, 7-3.

Later Saturday, the New York Rangers announced that their dressing room will be closed, while Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said on Hockey Night in Canada that the NHL is expected to make the closure league-wide at some time over the next couple of days.

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The WHL and its 22 teams won’t have to act to restrict media from dressing rooms because that’s something that happened prior to the 2002-03 season.

The WHL’s media policy, in place since then, reads in part: “The dressing rooms of each team are considered restricted access — no access is granted without the permission of the team concerned. Access to the dressing room, by the media or other personnel, is strictly at the discretion of each team.”

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Among cancellations related to the COVID-019 virus announced Saturday were the 2020 world women’s hockey championship and the Arctic Winter Games.

The IIHF pulled the plug on the women’s championship that would have brought 10 Halifaxwomenteams to Halifax and Truro, N.S., from March 31 through April 10. It’s expected that Halifax and Truro will play host to the 2021 tournament. The decision to cancel this year’s tournament was made during a conference call on Saturday. . . . The 2003 women’s championship, which was scheduled for Beijing, was cancelled due to the SARS outbreak.

From The Hockey News:

“The Women’s World Championship is also the seventh event the IIHF has cancelled this week. . . . International hockey’s governing body announced Monday the 2020 U18 World Championship Div. II Group B tournament in Bulgaria was set to be cancelled. Other events cancelled included U18 World Championship Div. II Group A in Tallinn, Estonia; U18 World Championship Div. III Group A in Istanbul, Turkey; U18 World Championship Div. III Group B in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg; Women’s World Championship Div. I Group B in Katowice, Poland; and Women’s World Championship Div. II Group A in Jaca, Spain. Those decisions came on the recommendation of the IIHF’s medical committee.”

The men’s world championship, scheduled for Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, from May 8-24, remains a go, at least for now. Rene Fasel, the IIHF’s president, has said the tournament would be cancelled rather than play in empty arenas.

Also still on tap, at least for now, is the men’s U-18 World championship that is scheduled for Plymouth, Mich., from April 16 through April 26.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Arctic Winter Games that were to have been held in Whitehorse, from March 15 through March 21, also were cancelled. The event would have drawn more than 2,000 participants, some of them from such countries as Finland, Greenland, Norway and Russia. . . . Catherine Elliott, Yukon’s acting chief medical officer of health, had recommended the move.

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Daryl Wolski, a player agent with 2112 Hockey Agency who specializes in international placements, had four interesting tweets on Saturday:

“NLA and NLB leagues in Switzerland may considering cancelling both seasons on March 15.”

“KHL and VHL to meet to discuss 2020-21 season potential options for teams based in China.”

“Asia Hockey League will stream final playoff games and will have no fans allowed.”

“NLA teams in Switzerland get 1.6 millions Swiss (about Cdn $2.2 million) per team for TV rights therefore will consider playing with no fans.”


Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, and Gregg Popovich, who fills the same position with the San Antonio Spurs, are men of strong opinions, opinions they aren’t afraid to share.

And, I say, good for them.

On Friday, Kerr, along with players Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, attended an anti-gun rally in Oakland that shone a spotlight on, what Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, called “the city’s progress in combatting gun violence.”

Kerr told Ostler: “I do some work with the Giffords Center. Gabby Giffords was there, the former congresswoman from Arizona, who has become a friend. We put together the event with the Giffords Center. It was really a chance for us to learn what Oakland is doing to reduce gun violence, and it’s remarkable. They’re doing work that is groundbreaking, they’ve reduced gun violence by 50 percent over the last five years.”

Ostler’s story is right here.

Meanwhile, Popovich was, according to Kristian Winfield and Dennis Young of the New York Post, ripping “into Donald Trump’s response to coronavirus.”

Popovich said: “I think most people understand the situation we’re in. Anything we can do in any facet of our lives, either as groups or individuals that can bring honor to our country, that can make us not be embarrassed about the way our government performs its job, would be wonderful.”

“Today,” Popovich said on Friday, “it was our president blaming Barack Obama for the fact that we don’t have the (testing) kits that we need right now. Seriously.”

Popovich then came up with a quote for all-time. “I think,” Popovich said, “he thinks Barack Obama tripped Mary Decker.”

In the 1984 Olympic Summer Games, Decker fell in the 3,000-metre race.

The Post’s story is right here.



The Kootenay Ice are gone. Again. . . . This time it’s the Ice from the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. The 14-year-old franchise, which played out of Trail, has been suspended by BC Hockey, apparently because of low player numbers. . . . Keegan Goodrich, BC Hockey’s vice-president of communications, told Jim Bailey of the Trail Daily Times: “It’s not cancelled; we just aren’t operating it until numbers change.” . . . Bailey’s story is right here.


The WHL honoured a couple of familiar faces with Distinguished Service Awards this weekend. . . . Bernie Burtney, the supervisor of off-ice officials for the Saskatoon Blades, was saluted on Friday night. Burtney has been a volunteer with the Blades for 30 seasons. . . . On Saturday night, it was Dean (Scooter) Vrooman’s turn to be honoured. Vrooman, who has retired, spent 32 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, and was the team’s radio voice for 26 of those. He also handled corporate sponsorships and made numerous appearances on behalf of the club in the community. . . . The WHL presents two such awards each season, one to someone from each conference who has made “an extraordinary contribution.” . . . Perhaps next season the WHL will consider honouring the late Pat Rozek, who was the Kamloops Blazers’ scorekeeper for 25 seasons at the time of his death on Dec. 22, 2016, at the age of 64.

Scattershooting on a Friday night while remembering the Pocket Rocket . . .

Scattershooting

Henri Richard, the Pocket Rocket, died on Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84. . . . When he first earned a spot on the Montreal Canadiens’ roster, many observers felt he was in training camp only because his brother, Maurice (Rocket) Richard, was the Habs’ star. However, Henri earned a spot and before he was done he had won 11 Stanley Cups. . . . The great Roy MacGregor remembers the great Henri Richard right here.


While the Everett Silvertips topped the visiting Tri-City Americans, 6-0, in front of an announced crowd of 4,912 on Friday night, all signs point to the WHL at some point having to postpone, cancel or move games involving at least those teams in the Pacific Northwest.

The numbers in the Puget Sound region continue to rise, with the number of COVID-19 cases having reached 79 on Friday, including at least 15 deaths. The number of positive whltests are going up, up, up as more and more people are tested. The U.S., it seems, is woefully behind when it comes to testing citizens who are requesting tests, so no one has any idea just how many ill people are out there.

Meanwhile, everywhere one looks experts are recommending the shutting down of events that draw hundreds or thousands of fans, while the list of impacted events continues to grow.

On Friday, for example, Austin, Texas, declared a local disaster and that resulted in organizers cancelling the 34th annual South by Southwest — a music, technology and film festival that a year ago drew 417,000 people, many of them from international destinations. It was to have run from March 13 to 22.

In Seattle, organizers of Emerald City Comic Con, which was to begin next Thursday, announced that they were postponing their event.

But back to the WHL . . .

It could be that the WHL ends up playing in empty, or near-empty, arenas, either because fans are barred from games or just stop showing up.

“Each individual has to weigh their own risk tolerance,” Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday. “If things remain as they are, or get worse, I think the prudent thing to do would be to not go to things that are not essential.

“And I consider sporting events not essential.”

Dr. Swartzberg also told Killion:

“I’m looking at this through the lens of a physician and public health professor. If things continue as they have been, I would encourage people not to go (to large events). It’s very hard for me to condone the idea of doing anything that throws more gasoline on the fire.”

Meanwhile, a public health board in San Jose suggested that the NHL should be postponing games; the league and the San Jose Sharks chose to ignore the suggestion.

“The National Hockey League’s decision to reject a public health board’s recommendation to postpone a game in San Jose on Thursday night is being criticized by several infectious disease experts who say indoor venues such as NHL arenas are ideal breeding grounds for the spread of coronavirus,” reported TSN’s Rick Westhead.

“The Santa Clara County department of public health recommended Thursday that the NHL delay a game in San Jose between the Sharks and the Minnesota Wild. There are at least 24 documented cases of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, Calif., the public health department said, with four new cases on Friday, adding that avoiding large gatherings may help slow the spread of the virus.”

The Sharks played Thursday before a season-low announced attendance of 14,517 in the SAP Center. On Friday, the Sharks said that Saturday night’s game against the visiting Ottawa Senators will be played as scheduled. On Friday night, the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda entertained the San Diego Gulls at the SAP Center.

Dr. Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, an assistant professor in the department of health sciences and biology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., told Westhead that the NHL is being “unwise” in not following the recommendation.

“The virus is now community circulating, meaning you don’t have to go to a country like Iran or China to get it,” Dr. DeWitte-Orr told Westhead. “It can be transmitted by respiratory droplets and at an NHL game you have a lot of people in a close proximity and a lot of people yelling. There are going to be a lot of respiratory droplets in the air. If someone with coronavirus touches seats and railing and then you touch those spots and touch your face, you’re exposed to the virus. It’s not going to help you that after the game those surfaces are cleaned.”

Westhead’s story is right here.


JUST NOTES: Speculation on the Kootenays has Derek Stuart as the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who will begin play in the BCHL next season. At present, Stuart is in his third season as GM/head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The Dynamiters are into the second round of the KIJHL playoffs. . . . Hey, Tim Hortons, I’m thinking that you have the worst commercial on TV today. For the record, it isn’t anywhere close to being lit.

Ayres 2
David Ayres, the most famous EBUG in hockey history, was in Saskatoon on Friday night as the Blades beat the Regina Pats, 2-1 in OT. Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, was signing autographs and promoting organ donation at the WHL game. (Photo: Darren Steinke)

Scattershooting on a Wednesday night while wondering if COVID-19 will impact WHL teams . . .

Scattershooting

With a number of sporting events having been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, you have to wonder how much impact, if any, this might have on the WHL and its 22 teams.

Late Tuesday, Chicago State University revealed that its men’s basketball team wouldn’t whlbe travelling to Seattle University and Utah Valley for Western Athletic Conference games that were scheduled for today (Thursday) and Saturday.

The university cited the spread of COVID-19 in announcing at the same time that its women’s team wouldn’t play host to games Thursday (against Seattle) and Saturday (Utah Valley).weekend games.

On Wednesday, the U of Missouri-Kansas City announced that its men’s team wouldn’t travel to Seattle U for a Saturday game.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Seattle area — 21 in King County and 10 more in Snohomish County, with a total of 10 deaths.

Later Wednesday, Facebook revealed that one of its Seattle employees had been diagnosed with coronavirus. The company also said it was closing its Seattle office until March 9, while encouraging employees to work from home at least through the end of the month.

The WHL has four teams based in Washington state, with two of those in the Seattle area. While the WHL has yet to issue a statement on any preparations that might be underway or any plans it may be considering, one has to think that officials are keeping a close eye on things.

The Everett Silvertips have three home games remaining in the regular season, with two of them this weekend, and will have home-ice advantage in a first-round best-of-seven series that will open later this month.

The Silvertips are at home to the Tri-City Americans on Friday, and then will play home-and-home with the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday game is scheduled for Everett, with Sunday’s game in Kent, Wash., the home of the Thunderbirds.

Everett drew 6,633 fans to its last home game — it beat the Portland Winterhawks 4-1 on Sunday to move into first place in the U.S. Division. The Thunderbirds announced attendance for their last home game — a 6-3 loss to Portland on Feb. 29 — at 5,264. They have four home games remaining in the regular season.

On Wednesday afternoon, TSN’s Rick Westhead tweeted this statement from Dr. John Swartzberg, who is an infectious disease specialist at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health, on the risks of staging NHL and NBA games in Los Angeles after the county declared a public health emergency:

“We don’t know that much about this (respiratory virus). We know it’s (a) very contagious virus and fast spreading and we know the worst thing you can do to fan a pandemic is to bring people from disparate areas together in a crowded situation. There’s no question about that for respiratory viral infections.

“It would make sense if you have a serious problem to cancel events at venues where people are brought together in crowds, which is a great way to spread disease. It’s not what anybody wants to hear but if you take off the economics hat and just think about the transmission of an infectious agent, it makes sense to cancel events where people are brought together. From a public health standpoint, the less people congregate together, the less disease you’re going to have. The cases that we see are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s probably many, many, many cases walking around that we don’t see.”

The last time the WHL had to deal with anything like this was in February 2017 when it was faced with an outbreak of the mumps virus. At that time, it severely limited contact between players and fans, and placed a lot of emphasizing on sanitizing and disinfecting dressing rooms and equipment.

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The time is coming when major junior hockey is going to lose some of its best 19-year-old players to the AHL. Right now, the agreement between the NHL and the Canadian NHLHockey League calls for 19-year-old signed players to be offered back to their junior teams if they don’t stick with the big club.

For example, F Kirby Dach would have had to be returned to the Saskatoon Blades had he not earned a roster spot with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to this season.

The fact that a 19-year-old who has starred at the major junior level can’t move up to the AHL to further his development, rather than return for another season of junior, has been a sore spot with NHL teams for a while now. On the other side of the coin, junior operators understandably don’t want to lose their star attractions any sooner than absolutely necessary.

This all has been up for discussion for a few years now, and here it is again.

Here’s Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman with a note from his latest 31 Thoughts, following an interview with Marc Bergevin, the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens:
“Bergevin talked a bit about player development — that span between when someone is drafted and they join your organization. How important it is and how much (or how little) control the NHL team really has. The timing was interesting. The league’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League expires soon, and, once again, there is a conversation about sending players to the AHL. It’s not unusual for this to be a debate. This time, however, there appears to be momentum. We’ll see where it goes.”



What is wrong with this picture? On Tuesday morning, TSN had the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on one channel, using the ESPN telecast. Meanwhile, Sportsnet had the same game on five channels, using the feed from the YES Network. . . . Anyone else find it interesting that Rogers, which owns the Toronto Blue Jays and Sportsnet, has yet to send its play-by-play crew to spring training?


ICYMI: Old friend Lorne Molleken, the sartorially splendiferous one, will be honoured by the Saskatoon Blades prior to a game with the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on March 21. Molleken spent 13 seasons over three stints as the Blades’ head coach, and will have his named added to the club’s Builders Banner in the SaskTel Centre rafters. His coaching record with the Blades is 539-325-58. Oh, he also has 23 ties in. I’m not about to tell you how old he is, but, yes, he coached in the WHL when ties were a thing. . . . You can bet that somewhere on high Muzz MacPherson, in his gravelly voice, is laughing and nodding his head in agreement.


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Clayton Beddoes has resigned as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . “In recent weeks,” said Italian Ice Sports Federation president Andrea Gios in a news release, “some differences of views have emerged on technical and organizational aspects that have led both sides to opt for an interruption of the employment relationship.” . . . Beddoes, 49, is from Bentley, Alta. He had been on the Italian national team’s coaching staff since 2015, and had been the head coach since 2018. . . . Beddoes took over as the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL on March 11, 2019. He was replaced by Greg Ireland on Jan. 2.

Remember that you don’t have to be a match to specific recipient in order to be a kidney donor . . .


Eight days after being the donor and recipient of a kidney transplant at Vancouver General Hospital, Michael Teigen and Stephen Gillis appeared on CTV Morning Live on Wednesday.

Gillis, the recipient, and Teigen both are doing well and are walking billboards for the entire process.

The conversation — and this is really good stuff — is right here.


The Children’s Organ Transplant Society issued this release on Tuesday:

“We have been receiving a lovely number of messages asking about how to be tested as a living kidney donor for Zach Tremblay. Thank you to our community for spreading the word! However, as a charity we cannot provide confidential medical information about Zach’s history or present condition, as well as any other transplant children. Please know that we would love to direct you to the right place, but cannot answer questions about Zach’s personal health. If you would like to apply for living donation, please contact St. Paul’s Living Donor Program.”

So here’s the deal . . .

You don’t have to be a match to Zach if you are interested in helping him. If you aren’t a match, you are able to help him through the Living Donor Program. If you were deemed to be an eligible donor via that program, you would donate a kidney to someone else, quite likely a stranger, but on the condition that Zach got a kidney.

That is exactly how my wife, Dorothy, received a kidney more than six years ago. Her best friend donated a kidney through the Living Donor Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. That kidney went to a stranger, while Dorothy received a kidney from another stranger.

So remember . . . you don’t have to be a match in order to help Zach, a 16-year-old from Robson, B.C., who has been in Vancouver since early January. He has transitioned from peritoneal dialysis to hemp-dialysis, but won’t be going home until there is room for him in the dialysis unit at the hospital in Trail.

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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


OrganDonation



Scattershooting on a Thursday evening while wondering if NHL teams are moving back to dump-and-chase game . . .

Scattershooting

Not in the Christmas spirit? Watch this . . .


In his weekly compilation, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times included an obit of the week for football fan John J. Ford, 86, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: ”Passed away surrounded by family on December 2nd after the Vikings allowed 17 unanswered points . . .”

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“A Las Vegas hospital billed the parents $2,659 to pull a tiny doll’s shoe from their child’s nostril,” Perry reported. “Imagine what it would cost to extract Antonio Brown’s foot from his mouth.”


Mozart


Congratulations and best wishes to Innes Mackie, who has been around the WHL since the Christmas Wish Book was used for shin pads, or maybe even earlier. . . .

And congrats, too, to Dan O’Connor, the play-by-play voice of the Vancouver Giants. While Mackie, the Tri-City Americans’ equipment guru, was working Game No. 3,200, O’Connor was calling No. 600.


ICYMI, Part 1: D Nikita Zadorov of the visiting Colorado Avalanche recently took out Montreal Canadiens F Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was left with a brain injury. There wasn’t a penalty; there wasn’t a suspension. “So how could Zadorov get away with it?” Jack Todd writes in the Montreal Gazette. “Blame hockey’s pervasive knucklehead culture, which has survived well into the 21st century. The loudest of the braying donkeys in the barn may have been shuffled off to the Podcast Porch — but the brutal culture Don Cherry helped foster lives on.” . . . The complete column is right here.

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ICYMI, Part 2: Hockey Canada trimmed a bunch of players from the selection camp for its national junior team on Thursday. Yes, it has to be done. But why make these teenagers walk the media gauntlet after they’ve been chopped from the roster? Come on, Hockey Canada, be better than that.


Puppy


If the Kelowna Rockets continue to unload premium bantam draft picks and perhaps a prospect or two in the hunt for a Memorial Cup title in the spring, when they will be the tournament’s host team, you have to wonder if their aftermath will be more like the Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats or Swift Current Broncos. . . . The Raiders are 19-7-4 and atop the East Division after making a deal or three — but not selling out — that helped them win the WHL’s 2018-19 championship. The Pats are 7-18-3 after selling out as the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup. The Broncos are 6-20-3 while still trying to recover after emptying the cupboard as they successfully chased the WHL’s 2017-18 title. . . . Over the past one season-plus, the Pats are 26-63-7 and the Broncos are 17-71-9. Neither team made the playoffs last spring and they won’t be there in 2020.


If you are wanting to attend the 2021 World Junior Championship, with games in Edmonton and Red Deer, you may want to see your banker about a loan. . . . Considering the political/labour situation in Alberta at the moment, it will be interesting to see how tickets sales play out. . . .


The New York Yankees signed P Gerrit Cole to a nine-year deal valued at US$324 million. . . . The Los Angeles Angels got 3B Anthony Rendon for US$245 million over seven seasons. . . . F Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has hockey’s richest deal — US$124 million over 13 years. That was signed in January 2008. . . . According to an entry at Wikipedia, Ovechkin’s contract, the richest in NHL history, is tied for the 79th richest in sports history. . . . That’s what having a hard salary cap does for you.


I didn’t finish Michael Connelly’s latest book — The Night Fire — in time to get it into my Bookshelf series that was posted here earlier in the week. But if you’re a fan of Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, you’ll enjoy this one. It features the retired-but-not-retired Bosch and LAPD Det. Renée Ballard doing their thing on the streets of L.A. and area. Good fun, unless you’re the bad guys.


The Kelowna Rockets were in Prince Albert to play the Raiders a week ago. Hear from both coaches — Marc Habscheid of the Raiders and Adam Foote of the Rockets — after the game, and then decide who won . . .

Habscheid: “I don’t blame referees or anything, but there were three soft calls and they talked to (Foote) all night. I don’t know if they wanted to get his autograph, because he was a Stanley Cup champion or what, but it didn’t look good. They talked to him all night, (and Foote) ran line changes. He did whatever he wanted, and he slowed the game down, and they just let him do it. I don’t know if they wanted his autograph or what the deal was.”

Foote: “The refs were pretty good all night . . .”

Thanks to Darren Steinke for the quotes. His complete blog post is right here.

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One night later, the Rockets visited the Blades in Saskatoon. The Rockets tied the game, 3-3, late in the third period and won it in a shootout, much to the chagrin of at least one Blades fan.

That fan was on social media bemoaning — you guessed it! — the officiating. Someone else asked: “Who were the refs?”

I laughed out loud when I saw the response: “Hamilton and Foote.” That, of course, was in reference to Kelowna owner/president/general manager Bruce Hamilton, who also is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors, and Adam Foote, the Rockets’ head coach.



SocialMedia


JUST NOTES: Judging by video clips from the Wayne Fleming Arena, there certainly seems to be a lot of room available on the benches for Winnipeg Ice home games. I realize that a lot of people choose to stand during the games, but you have to wonder how the empty seat-look sits with the WHL’s board of governors. . . . And, hey, if anyone has any photos of the Ice’s future home under construction feel free to send them along to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. . . . Was anyone watching Monday Night Football and not pulling for Eli Manning? . . . With the Giants on MNF and the Jets on Thursday night, was it enough to make you feel sorry for the football fans of New York City? . . . A tip of the hat to the Seattle Thunderbirds and Saskatoon Blades for a deal involving F Alex Morozoff. A native of Saskatoon, Morozoff was traded for a sixth-round pick in the 2023 bantam draft. “Alex and his family are currently dealing with a family medical issue,” Seattle GM Bil LaForge said in explaining the deal in a news release. “We have made this trade to help get Alex closer to his family in Saskatoon.”

Ex-Blades import signs in Sweden. . . . Matvichuk joins hockey ops at BWC. . . . Chiefs lose goaltending coach

MacBeth

D Jesse Forsberg (Prince George, Seattle, Moose Jaw, 2008-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite). Last season, with U of Saskatchewan (USports, Canada West), he had six goals and 15 assists in 24 games. He was the Huskies’ captain. . . .

F Eric Fehr (Brandon, 2000-05) has signed a one-year contract with Genève-Servette (Switzerland, National League). Last season, with the Minnesota Wild (NHL), he had seven goals and eight assists in 72 games. . . .

F Mário Múčka (Everett, 2016-17) has signed a one-year contract with Nové Zámky (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, with Nitra U20 (Slovakia, Extraliga Juniori), he had seven goals and 22 assists in 28 games. . . .

D Andrej Meszároš (Vancouver, 2004-05) has signed a one-year contract extension with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, in 39 games with Slovan in the KHL, he had two goals and five assists. He was an alternate captain. . . .

D Jindřich Barák (Red Deer, 2009-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Slavia Prague (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). Last season, he had one goal and five assists in 31 games. . . .

F Kristian Røykås Marthinsen (Saskatoon, 2018-19) has signed a one-year contract with HC Dalen Norrahammar (Sweden, Division 1), where he will play with his older brother Andreas. Last season, with the Saskatoon Blades (WHL), he had 13 goals and 16 assists in 62 games. . . .

F Milan Kytnár (Kelowna, Saskatoon, Vancouver, 2007-10) has signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, in 56 games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 29 goals and 14 assists. He was an alternate captain. He led the team in goals and was tied for third in the league.


ThisThat

F Kristian Røykås Marthinsen won’t be back for a second season with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . As you will have read in The MacBeth Report, the 20-year-old from Lorenskog, SaskatoonNorway, has signed with HC Dalen Norrahammar (Sweden, Division 1). . . . He had 29 points, including 13 goals, in 62 games with the Blades last season. . . . Røykås Marthinsen was a seventh-round pick by the Washington Capitals in the NHL’s 2017 draft but wasn’t signed. . . . Saskatoon also lost its other import from last season as D Emil Malysjev has chosen to remain in Sweden. He had three goals and 14 assists in 63 games last season, then added one goal in 10 playoff games. . . . The Blades, who knew well in advance that neither would return, selected Czech D Libor Zabransky and Czech F Radek Kucerik in the CHL’s 2019 import draft. . . . Zabransky, 19, has WHL experience, having played with the Kelowna Rockets in 2017-18 and for part of last season. He finished it with the USHL’s Fargo Force. . . . Kucerik, who won’t turn 18 until Dec. 21, had six goals and 17 assists in 43 games with HC Kometa Brno’s U-19 team last season. He was the team captain. He also had two goals and three assists in 22 games with the national U-18 team. . . . Zabransky also is a product of the Kometa Brno organization.


Richard Matvichuk is the Burnaby Winter Club’s new hockey director. He will start his new job on Aug. 1. Matvichuk, 46, spent the past two-plus seasons as the head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. He guided the Cougars to the B.C. Division title in his first season, 2016-17, then was fired last season, less than two seasons into a rebuild. . . . Prior to joining the Cougars, he spent two seasons as the director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. . . . As a player, he spent three seasons (1989-92) with the Saskatoon Blades before going on to a pro career that included 796 regular-season and 123 playoff NHL games.


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JUST NOTES:

Ryan Cyr isn’t returning to the Spokane Chiefs as their goaltending coach after having joined the 50 Below Sports + Entertainment ownership group in Winnipeg. . . . Cyr, a former WHL goaltender (Seattle, Lethbridge Saskatoon, 2000-05), had been with the Chiefs since 2011. . . . He is the co-founder of what now is Rink Goalie Development in Winnipeg. He also is the president of Rink Training Centre. . . . The 50 Below Sports group owns the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues, the Rink Hockey Academy and the Rink Training Centre. . . .

Brad Cole is the new head coach of the men’s hockey team at the Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Sask., just west of Moose Jaw. . . . Cole, who is from Miniota, Man., played four seasons in the WHL (Seattle, Kootenay, Saskatoon, 2003-07). A defenceman, he went on to play in the AHL and ECHL, and spent five seasons in Europe. . . . Cole, 32, played 14 games with the Miniota-Elkhorn C-Hawks in the North Central Hockey League last season. He put up five goals and 23 assists in those 14 games. . . .

Andy Murray has signed a five-year contract extension as the head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos. The deal runs through 2023-24. Murray, 68, is prepping for his ninth season as the Broncos’ head coach. . . . How many fans remember Murray as the quarterback of the Brandon U Bobcats? Yes, BU once had a football team. Garry Davidson, Murray’s boyhood pal and now the general manager of the Everett Silvertips, also played for the Bobcats. . . .

Mark Chase has signed on as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks. Chase, from Kamloops, spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires before working last season as the general manager and head coach of the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.


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