A number of WHL management types made themselves available to media on Monday to expound upon the brief news release issued by the league on Friday afternoon.
The league, at that time, said it was “committed” to playing a 24-game schedule, but that it didn’t have a starting date, something that won’t be established until health officials in various jurisdiction give the OK.
“It is anticipated the approvals will be received soon,” the WHL news release read, hinting that perhaps it had received some inside information.
Three things are readily apparent: 1. There won’t be any fans in attendance at games; 2. Teams will play geographical/divisional rivals in weekend double- or tripleheaders in one venue; 3. The league hasn’t completely moved away from using some kind of bubble format.
Oh, and there likely won’t be anything resembling a championship playoff.
“There could be a divisional playoff,” Collin Priestner, the Saskatoon Blades’ president and general manager, told Pat McKay of CTV Saskatoon, “but I don’t think we have the ability to have a league championship at this point, given that we’ve got teams in different countries and the travel is going to be severely restricted.”
If the WHL is able to get a season started, then, it all will be about giving its players a chance to strut their stuff for the scouts.
Don Moores, the president of the Kamloops Blazers, told Radio NL in Kamloops: “We are going to bring our players in at the appropriate time. They will be part of a program to develop, which really is our mandate. We’ll figure it out based on what health authorities allow us to do.
“We are a development hockey league. We are the elite hockey development program in the world. That’s what our responsibility is.”
But, as Priestner pointed out to McKay, there remain many unanswered questions.
“From protocols, safety, insurance, logistics,” Priestner said. “How big rosters can be, or how do we bring in players if there’s injuries? How do we get a season in? What do we do if things get shut down in the provinces?”
Meanwhile, the Prince George Cougars, the most remotely located of the WHL’s 22 teams, doesn’t even know where it will be playing.
“I think it’s wide open to see if we will be playing games here or on the road or in a bubble format,” Mark Lamb, the Cougars’ general manager and head coach, told local reporters in a Zoom call. “We don’t have an exact date yet as to when we are going to start playing so that is still up in the air, but we do have a commitment from the league that we do have a 24-game schedule.”
And if you’re wondering who will be footing the bill for a return to play, Andy Beesley, the Cougars’ vice-president of business, had the answer.
“(The owners) are shouldering the entire cost,” he said. “For sure, when the players come to Prince George they will be put up with billet families, which we pay for, there is a tremendous amount of PPE and testing that we are on the hook for and, assuming that we are going into a bubble-type concept, wherever that may be, there will likely be hotel rooms, meal costs, player equipment, and staffing.”
Multiply that by 22 teams and, well, red ink is going to flowing like the South Thompson River in spring time.
So . . . what’s next?
Willie Desjardins, the general manager and head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers, told Scott Roblin of CHAT-TV that there will be an update coming from the WHL on Jan. 22.
Cam Moon, a native of Edmonton, is leaving Red Deer after 22 years as the radio voice of the WHL’s Rebels, to handle play-by-play duties on Edmonton Oilers’ regional broadcasts.
Moon had been with the Rebels since 1998, through 1,753 consecutive games — regular-season, playoff and Memorial Cup. He joined the Rebels after spending three seasons with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers.
“Central Alberta hockey fans have had the pleasure of listening to his energetic spirit for 22 seasons,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, general manager and head coach, said in a news release, “and we’re honoured we’ll continue to hear him on Alberta’s airwaves. This truly is a dream come true for Mooner.”
Moon, an immensely popular figure on the WHL media circuit, told Troy Gillard of rdnewsNOW: “It’s overwhelming, for sure. It’s a team I grew up watching in my hometown so I very much look forward to the opportunity, the challenge. I never thought this day would come, I really didn’t, nor was I really looking for it, but here it is . . .
“It’s exciting and I look forward to the next chapter, but it’s also a little sad in that one chapter’s closing. It’s definitely a dream job. If I had the ability to pick a radio play-by-play job with any of the National Hockey League teams, this would be my No. 1 choice.”
With the Oilers, Moon moves into the seat vacated by Jack Michaels, who now will call the play of Edmonton regional TV games for Sportsnet, replacing Kevin Quinn. Michaels will return to radio for Oilers games that are national and for Edmonton playoff games.
Louie DeBrusk is the analyst on TV games, with Bob Stauffer doing the same on radio.
Quinn and Drew Remenda no longer are part of Oilers’ telecasts or broadcasts.
You are able to tune into 630 CHED in Edmonton to hear Moon call his first Oilers game on Wednesday night as they play host to the Vancouver Canucks.
CBC News: Manitoba announces 133 new cases of COVID-19. That’s the lowest total in 6 days but still pushes the province’s 7-day average up slightly to 172. Health authorities are also reporting 3 more deaths.
CBC News: A big jump in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan with 412. The previous day’s total, which hadn’t been reported, was 307. The average for the 7 previous days was 290. The province is also reporting 8 additional deaths and hospitalizations are at an all-time high.
CTV Regina: Saskatchewan’s 7-day average for daily COVID-19 has doubled over the past 13 days. The weekly average dropped to 152 on Dec. 30, but it has increased each day since, hitting an all-time high of 307 Monday.
CBC News: Alberta reports 639 new COVID-19 cases and 23 more deaths. Across the province there were 13,917 active cases, with 811 people are being treated in hospitals for the illness, including 130 in ICU beds.
Richard Zussman, Global BC: There are 1,475 new cases of COVID-19, from Fri to Sat 538 new cases, Sat to Sun 507 new cases, Sun to Mon 430 new cases. There are now a total of 58,107 positive cases in BC. . . . There are 5,220 active cases of COVID in BC. There are 358 people in hospital with COVID, of whom 72 are in ICU. There are 7,313 people in active monitoring. . . . There have been 22 new COVID deaths over the weekend. There have been 1,010 COVID deaths in BC in total.
CBC News: Ontario is reporting 3,338 new cases of COVID-19, the 8th straight day above 3,000. The hot spots are Toronto (931), Peel Region (531) and York Region (241). The province is expected to announce new restrictions tomorrow to help curtail the spread.
CBC News: 21 new COVID-19 cases today in New Brunswick. The province has experienced a significant surge over the past week with 164 new cases, for a daily average of 23. For the previous 7 days, the total number of cases was 26, with a daily average of 3.7.
CNN, Monday, 2 p.m. PT: 375,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Monday, 7 p.m. PT: 376,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Monday, 1:30 p.m. PT: 22.5 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
CNN, Monday, 7 p.m. PT: 22.6 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
Anna Cabrera, CNN: At least two gorillas at San Diego Zoo test positive for COVID-19, first known cases among great apes. The zoo says three animals are currently showing symptoms and it is suspected that the primates were infected by an asymptomatic staff member.
The Vancouver Canucks, who cancelled all Sunday team activities because of COVID-19 protocols, were back on the ice on Monday morning. It seems that Sunday’s episode was the result of a false positive. . . . The Canucks are scheduled to open their regular season with games against the host Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday and Thursday. . . . The Dallas Stars, who shut things down last week after eight positive tests — six players and two staffers — are to return to the practice ice Tuesday. They also announced that practices will be closed to the media until further notice. . . . The Stars’ first three scheduled regular-season games have postponed, leaving them to open at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 19. . . .
The NBA’s coronavirus nightmare continues. Having postponed one game on Sunday, it had to do the same to a Monday night game and another scheduled for Tuesday. . . . There now have been a total of four games postponed. . . . The Miami Heat-Boston Celtics game scheduled for Sunday didn’t come off; neither did Monday’s game between the New Orleans Pelicans and host Dallas Mavericks. The visiting Celtics and Chicago Bulls won’t play tonight (Tuesday). . . . Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The NBA started its season in the worst part of the pandemic, as post-Thanksgiving numbers surged, deaths spiked, and hospitals and frontline health care workers were absolutely overwhelmed. What we have seen in recent weeks makes last summer seem calm.” . . . We now wait to see if the same fate awaits the NHL. . . .
The Air Force Falcons have shut down their hockey program for at least two weeks after five players tested positive following a road trip during which the team played five games in seven days on the East Coast. Their home games for the next two weekends are off the schedule. . . .
Skate Canada has cancelled the 2021 National Skating Championships because of the “evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic across Canada.” . . . The Canadians were scheduled for Vancouver, Feb. 8-14. . . .
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
I spent some of Friday afternoon wondering if David Branch, the OHL commissioner, burst out laughing or slapped his forehead when he discovered that Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s sport minister, now is running his league.
If you missed it, a Canadian Press story indicated that MacLeod, who apparently was speaking to the Empire Club of Canada, stated that the OHL’s teams will play without bodychecking should their season get started on Feb. 4 as planned.
According to CP, MacLeod said that removing purposeful physical contact from the game is a necessary step to preventing the spread of COVID-19. She also said the decision was influenced by the QMJHL, which has had three teams experience a number of positive tests. Two of the QMJHL’s on-ice officials also tested positive.
Surely, Branch, who has been the man in charge of the OHL since 1979, must have had a good laugh, or another forehead-slapping experience. Or maybe he just rolled his eyes.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before the OHL put out this statement: “Until such time as we arrive at an agreed upon Return to Play protocol with the Government of Ontario, the League will have no further comment on the matter of body contact.”
Hopefully, Branch didn’t turn to Twitter to see the reaction. I mean, to say that people lost their stuff, well, that would be too kind.
People . . . people . . . really! Yesterday was Oct. 30. A couple of days ago, you thought the OHL was going to start on Dec. 1. Now it’s Feb. 4. This is, as they say, a fluid situation. If you haven’t learned that the virus is in charge here, you really haven’t been paying attention.
Meanwhile, allow me to share some of Friday’s virus-related headlines and tweets with you, just to, you know, keep you up to date because, hey, stuff is happening and it isn’t good . . .
CBC News: Quebec adds 1,108 new coronavirus cases; that’s the highest daily total in almost 2 weeks and pushed the province’s 7-day average to 961.
CBC News: Ontario is reporting 896 new cases of COVID-19. . . . The province’s 7-day average is now 909, the highest recorded since the pandemic began.
Daily Hive Vancouver: Canada is extending its ban on cruise ships until February of next year.
Bartley Kives, CBC Manitoba: Manitoba announced a record 480 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver, on Manitoba’s announcement: Per capita, that’s by far the highest any province in Canada has seen in a single day since the pandemic began.
Global News: St. Boniface Hospital intensive care unit officially over capacity.
Global News: Winnipeg closing rec centres, pools, arenas, libraries under new coronavirus restrictions.
680 CJOB: With over 400 new COVID-19 cases reported on Friday in Manitoba, new, tighter restrictions will effectively end sports in the Winnipeg region as of Monday.
Mike Sawatzky, Winnipeg Free Press: “Hockey Winnipeg president Chris Hall says that his organization is ‘shutting down everything effective (Saturday)’ after it was announced city would be under code red status by Monday. Several facilities, including the Iceplex, have already said they are shutting the doors.”
CBC News: Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said there were active alerts or COVID-19 outbreaks at 249 schools in the province.
CBC News: Alberta adds a record 622 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 5 new deaths, bringing the province’s total number of deaths to 323. This is significantly above the average of 450 new cases the province has been seeing for the last 10 days.
CBC British Columbia: B.C. announces 272 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 more death.
Global Okanagan: B.C. has granted regional medical health officers the powers to issue COVID-19 restrictions for their own jurisdictions. It comes as the province topped 6,000 people in isolation due to exposure for the first time.
Keith Baldrey of Global TV: Updating our southern neighbour’s COVID-19 situation: more than 1,000 cases in Washington state today (highest in weeks). In the past week alone: 5,200 cases/70 deaths/291 hospitalizations.
Associated Press: Confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases surge past 9 million as infections are on the rise in 47 states. (NOTE: There are 50 states in the U.S.)
CNN: The US surpasses 9 million coronavirus cases just 14 days after reaching 8 million. It was the nation’s fastest 1 million-case rise of the pandemic.
The COVID Tracking Project: Our daily update is published. States reported a new record number of cases — 97k — and 1.4 million tests. Currently, 47k people are hospitalized. There were 933 COVID-19 deaths reported.
Detroit News: President Trump claims country is ‘rounding the corner’ amid new COVID-19 surges.
The Globe and Mail: Bobby Orr endorses Donald Trump, calling him ‘the kind of teammate I want’
Now for something completely different . . .
Jason Gregor of TSN1260 in Edmonton was looking for good hockey chirps on Friday. . . . He tweeted that a texter who had played junior hockey sent him this one: “I started chirping a guy to scrap, and his response was ‘Put a coat on; it might be cold when you wake up.” . . . D Hal Gibb, who played with the Prince George Cougars, said he “slashed Ty Rattie after he scored to complete his hat trick and he said, ‘Don’t touch me. I have more goals this period than you do in your career.’ That was a little hurtful but fair.”
A few others that showed up on Gregor’s timeline . . .
To an opponent wearing an Itech bubble mask: “Nice window . . . can I get fries with that?”
“You better pack a lunch but, ’cause I’ll be beating you for days.”
“Another kid used to call me Shrek every time we played. I scored to make it 7-0 us and skated to his bench and told him, “This is my swamp now.”
“I was filling in as PA Announcer in MedHat for the Tigers. Clarke MacArthur just returned from a Gold Medal performance with Canada at the World Jrs, and was getting chirped about punching a rookie. His answer was . . . ‘How was your Christmas? Did you like watching me on TV?’ ”
“GMAC VS NAIT in playoffs. There’s a big round guy chirping in the stands as we come off the ice. One of our dmen yells back, ‘Hey buddy gravy isn’t a beverage!!’ The crowd on both sides laughed. Priceless.”
“At a high school basketball game in Southern Alberta an elderly lady yelled, ‘Come on Ref! I’ve seen better eyes on a potato!’ ”
“I was chirping a guy who played on the Canadian World Junior Team. I kept using his name and he turned to me and said: ‘Why do you know my name but I don’t know yours?’ That hurt.”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Very challenging Corona-related situation in European hockey, as result of increase in infections. Czech TELH and French Ligue Magnus are paused. Austrian ICE League partially paused. Several leagues – primarily SUI, CZE, SVK, SWE, RUS (KHL) – have multiple games postponed. pic.twitter.com/eP6U1KVvcT
An unidentified member of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters organization has tested positive, resulting in the postponement of the team’s next two scheduled games. From a Kootenay International Junior League news release: “The individual in question has been placed in a 14-day quarantine and the Kimberley Dynamiters organization is following the direction of the Interior Health Authority relative to further testing and contact tracing, and adhering to all KIJHL Return to Play protocols.” . . . It wasn’t revealed whether this person is a player or staff member. . . . The Dynamiters were to have visited the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday and the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Sunday. . . .
The 10-team Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League has put its schedule on hold until further notice due to a possible exposure and as the province’s numbers continue to climb. There were 480 positives announced on Friday; Manitoba’s previous single-day record had been 193. . . . Kerry Lines, the MMJHL president, told Game On Magazine: “We are taking a cautious approach due to exposure to COVID-19. We will reassess the situation on Monday. Games will be re-scheduled.” . . .
The Manitoba Female Hockey League has postponed all games until further notice. . . .
The MJHL postponed Friday and Sunday games between the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze. A scheduled Sunday assignment between the Steinbach Pistons and host Selkirk Steelers will be played tonight (Saturday). . . . After weekend games, it also will suspend games in its South East Division until further notice. The Blues, Pistons, Steelers and Freeze are in that division. . . .
The Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League has postponed all games involving the Winnipeg Bruins, Winnipeg Thrashers and Winnipeg Wild through Nov. 15. . . .
Nineteen days after testing positive, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has tested negative so is able to return to play with Juventus. He tested positive while with the Portuguese national team, but has missed four Juventus games. Ronaldo is eligible to return Sunday against host Spezia in a Serie A game. . . .
The Hockey Hall of Fame won’t have a Class of 2021. However, the Class of 2020 will be inducted during the 2021 induction weekend (Nov. 12-15, 2021). The Class of 2020 comprises Ken Holland, Marian Hossa, Jerome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Doug Willson. . . .
MLB has cancelled its owners’ meetings that had been scheduled for November and the winter meetings that were to have been held in December. Any sessions deemed necessary now will be held virtually.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
The Saskatoon Blades have added Tyler Dietrich as an assistant coach. He fills the void created when Ryan Keller, an assistant coach there since 2016, decided to step back a bit for family reasons. Keller will stay involved as a skills and development coach. . . . Dietrich, 36, spent the past four seasons involved with Hockey Canada’s video coaching program. . . . In Saskatoon, Dietrich will work alongside head coach Mitch Love and associate coach Ryan Marsh. . . . Dietrich is a former WHL player (Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Everett, 2000-05). He and Love were teammates in Moose Jaw and Everett.
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, addressed some media folks in a virtual gathering on Oct. 15. When the topic of WHL players moving to junior A during the shutdown arose, Trevor Redden of panow.com reported via Twitter that Robison said that if they were affiliated last (season), they’re eligible to play now, and that general managers were to discuss the subject this week.
That meeting apparently took place at some point this week, because the WHL issued a statement late Friday afternoon, stating that it “has granted temporary transfers for WHL roster players to continue their development by playing competitive hockey at the junior A, junior B and under-18 levels . . . through mid-December.”
That something had happened became apparent on Thursday night when the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers announced that they had signed Everett D Gianni Fairbrother, 20.
Then, on Friday morning, the Estevan Bruins revealed there was an agreement between the SJHL and WHL that will allow major junior players to play in the junior A league until Dec. 20. The Bruins did that as they announced the signing of F Cole Fonstad of the Everett Silvertips. Fonstad, 20, is from Estevan.
Everett also has loaned D Dylan Anderson, 18, to the BCHL’s Cowichan Capitals, F Jackson Berezowski, 18, to the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers, and F Ethan Regnier, 20, to the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs.
A news release from the Silvertips indicated that players are allowed “full participation in . . . practices, workout activities and games, until a loan expiration of Dec. 20. . . .”
The WHL has said it will start its next regular season on Jan. 8, with players reporting to teams shortly after Christmas.
According to Ryan Flaherty of Global Saskatoon, Blades D Rhett Rhinehart, who turns 19 next month, is with the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers. Flaherty added that G Nolan Maier, 19, “will likely play for Yorkton, although that has not been confirmed yet.”
As well, Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reported F Evan Herman, 18, of the Winnipeg Ice has joined the MJHL’s OCN Blizzard, while Connor Roulette, 17, of the Seattle Thunderbirds is with the MJHL’s Selkirk Steelers.
Byron Hackett of the Red Deer Advocate tweeted that Rebels F Jaxsen Wiebe, 18, is to play for the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks.
The Tri-City Americans have loaned F Parker Bell to the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Bell, 17, is from Campbell River.
Meanwhile, Regan Bartel, the long-time radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, tweeted that the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors have run out of goaltenders — three of them are injured — so have added veteran goaltenders Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius, both 19, from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets at least for this weekend.
Questions . . . yes, there are questions about the WHL’s agreement with junior A and junior B leagues about the loaning of players.
For starters, what happens to the transferred players if a WHL regular season doesn’t get started?
Also, some of these leagues have moved to a pay-for-play model. So who is paying for the WHL players to play in these other leagues?
Braden Malsbury, the radio voice of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves via MBC Radio, also has some thoughts in the following tweets:
Certain teams will now have a significant advantage because they have several legit WHL players born in their region. This creates an extremely uneven playing field. (2/4)
Hearing some Ontario Hockey League teams are telling players they don’t expect to open training camps until mid-January at the earliest. Even that’s far from a certainty. OHL has publicly said it hopes to start season Dec. 1.
Hartley Miller, the GOAT at 94.3 The GOAT and the analyst on broadcasts of Prince George Cougars home games, offered up this today:
“Leagues like the BCHL and WHL insist they will play a season even if fans are not allowed to their games.
“The financial commitment from those owners should be applauded, but the question remains how safe is it to play?
“There does not appear to be a clear answer but regardless of whether it is a top-notch junior player or one competing at the rec level, the athlete needs to fully understand there is a health risk, even though we remain in the dark how much risk that is.”
That is from his latest Hartley’s Hart Attack, headlined ‘The risk of competition.’ . . . It’s all right here. . . . And if you aren’t a daily reader, you should be.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
NHL teams have been told they will not be allowed to scout live at the upcoming World Juniors similar to the bubble the NHL had in Edmonton.
Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Among the many thousands who just don’t get the mask thing, there appear to be three options: (1) Wear it under the nose. Perfected by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on Sunday Night Football. Gives those droplets a fighting chance. (2) Down around the chin. Extremely fashionable. Shows you might have cared at daybreak. (3) None at all. Because, you know, what the hell, it’s a hassle.” . . .
Hearing rumblings that some NE prep schools are looking at going rogue & playing outside their leagues if leagues pull plug (as Founders League has already done). Also hearing talk of top midget programs — think Mid-Fairfield, Jr. Eagles, Whalers — extending seasons. Stay tuned
The Founders League, which comprises 11 prep schools, announced Friday that it has cancelled all interscholastic competition for the 2020-21 season. It includes 10 Connecticut schools and one from eastern New York. . . .
The KHL has postponed Jokerit’s next two games, which were scheduled for Monday and Wednesday, after four positive tests within the organization. Jokerit underwent testing after returning from its latest road trip. . . . Jokerit also had games postponed early in September because of positive tests. . . .
a source close to slava kozlov's family tells me he is out of the hospital and did have a difficult case of COVID-19.#RedWings@georgemalik
Two of U.S. college football’s bowl games are gone, at least for 2020. The Holiday Bowl was to have been held in San Diego, while the Fenway Bowl, which was to have been played for the first time, was scheduled for, yes, Fenway Park in Boston. . . .
Scotty Walden, the interim head coach at Southern Miss, tested positive earlier this week. He has been the head coach since Jay Hopson left after the season’s first game. . . . The Golden Eagles, who haven’t played since Oct. 3, are scheduled to play Liberty today (Saturday). Their game on Oct. 17 against UTEP wasn’t played because they were going through an outbreak. . . .
The U of Toledo has put its men’s basketball team on hold for two weeks because six players and head coach Tod Kowalczyk tested positive. . . . Marquette’s men’s and women’s basketball teams also have been shut down for two weeks after each experienced one positive test.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Some European teams are using the four-team Karjala Cup as a tuneup for the 2021 World Junior Championship that opens in an Edmonton bubble on Dec. 25. Former NHLer Igor Larionov is coaching the Russian team, with Valeri Bragin, normally the team’s head coach, having recently recovered from COVID-19. Also in the Karjala Cup are teams from Czech Republic and Sweden. The tournament, in Helsinki, runs from Nov. 5-8. . . . Former WHL D Connor Hobbs (Medicine Hat, Regina, 2013-17) has retired from pro hockey after playing three seasons with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Hobbs is back at home in Saskatoon and taking online courses as the U of Saskatchewan. Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has that story right here.
New: A Quebec court has rejected a $30M settlement in the CHL's minimum-wage class-action lawsuit. A Montreal judge wrote the settlement terms were overly broad & may give the CHL too much protection from liability for conduct that falls outside the claims alleged in this case. pic.twitter.com/Et9WySOcY6
It was May 17 when the CHL announced that it had agreed to a $30-million settlement in a class-action lawsuit that had been brought against it. The lawsuit asked that teams be forced to pay their plays minimum wage.
Under terms of the settlement, the CHL would pay out $30 million by Oct. 20, 2020, with no legal obligation to treat players as employees.
Two WHL teams, the Moose Jaw Warriors and Prince Albert Raiders, told shareholders at their annual general meetings that they had paid $180,846 and $166,667, respectively, as their parts of the settlement.
Well . . . it turns out that the lawsuit is anything but settled; in fact, it is very much alive.
On Thursday, two judges rejected the settlement.
According to Rick Westhead of TSN, Madam Justice Chantal Corriveau, a Quebec judge, “wrote the settlement terms were overly broad and may give the CHL too much protection from liability for conduct that falls outside the claims alleged in this case.”
Westhead added, via Twitter, that the judge “suggested sides file new settlement with amended terms and noted in her decision the CHL faces at least 3 other legal cases — a proposed class action over concussions, and other cases involving alleged abuse and violation of anti-competition laws.”
Meanwhile, Westhead reported, Ontario Justice Paul Perell “also rejected the minimum-wage lawsuit settlement, saying if it was approved, it might prevent current/former players from suing the CHL in other class actions for compensation for significant injuries.”
Westhead added that “Justice Perell wants a renegotiation of the settlement agreement and seems to take issue with how much money lawyers working on the case were to collect.”
In his decision, Perell wrote: “In the immediate case, Class Counsel had far more to gain ($9M) than the $8,381 net recovery of a class member . . .”
The QMJHL has had a third team hit with a positive test for the coronavirus. This time the Drummondville Voltigeurs had a player test positive, so all in-person activities have been halted while other players and staff are tested. . . . The league’s Quebec-based teams have been in a holding pattern since Oct. 14 because of rising numbers in the province. Activities have been halted until at least Oct. 28. . . . Earlier this month, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada had 18 positives, with the Sherbrooke Phoenix being hit with eight. The teams had met in a doubleheader on the regular season’s first weekend. Two on-ice officials who worked in those games also tested positive.
With the WHL and its teams focussed on opening their regular season on Jan. 8, the Saskatoon Blades are exploring a number of seating plans for their home games, all of them with the assumption that they will be allowed to have fans in attendance. The unknown, of course, is just how many fans will be at their home-opener, whenever that may come. . . . Ryan Flaherty of Global-TV Saskatoon checked in with Tyler Wawryk, the Blades’ director of business operations, and that piece is right here.
Former WHLer JC Lipon is spending this season with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga, meaning his home base is in Latvia. From Regina, Lipon spent four seasons (2010-13) with the Kamloops Blazers before ending up in the Winnipeg Jets’ organization. So how did he end up in Riga? . . . Read all about it, in his own words, right here.
The Ukrainian Hockey League began its 2019-20 season on Sept. 14, 2019; it ended it on Tuesday when HK Kremenchuk won the championship, beating Bily Bars, 3-2 in OT, in Game 7 of the final series. When Kremenchuk captain Nikolai Kiselyov scored the winner on a PP, it was the first time his team held the lead in Game 7. . . . As for the 2020-21 season, well, it’s scheduled to get started next week. . . . Andy Potts has more right here.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
The @PBRCanada Finals, originally scheduled for Nov 13/14 in Saskatoon, are moving to Grande Prairie, AB due to SK provincial coronavirus restrictions. Event will now be held Nov 5-7.
The NHL has postponed its 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Game. The Winter Classic had been scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minneapolis, with the All-Star Game in Sunrise, Fla., on Jan. 30. . . . The NHL continues to have a target date of Jan. 1 for the start of its next regular season. . . .
In what we used to see as normal times, more than 250,000 people would file through Macy’s store in New York City every Christmas just to visit with Santa Claus. That won’t happen this time because, for the first time in 160 years, Mr. Claus won’t be there. Yes, this grinchy pandemic has claimed another tradition. . . . There is more on that story right here. . . .
Emily Potter, a pro basketball player from Winnipeg, has tested positive in the Czech Republic where she plays for KP Brno. Potter, 25, attend the U of Utah and is involved in the Canadian national women’s team program. She tested positive this week with the league already shut down following a nationwide lockdown. So far, the head coach, a manager and two of her teammates also have tested positive. . . . Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun has her story right here. . . .
Massachusetts’ Public Health Department has shut down indoor arenas and skating facilities for two weeks due to rising coronavirus cases. Kaitlin McKlnley Becker of NBC Boston reported that “health officials say the order is in response to multiple COVID-19 clusters occurring at rinks throughout the state following games, practices and tournaments. . . . In Massachusetts, there have been at least 30 clusters of COVID-19 associated with organized ice hockey activities involving residents from more than 60 municipalities. Each of these includes two or more confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, totalling 108 confirmed cases.” . . . The shutdown doesn’t impact collegiate or professional hockey. . . .
In a cost-cutting measure brought on by the pandemic, Michigan State said Thursday that it will drop men’s and women’s swimming and men’s and women’s diving after the 2020-21 season. . . .
The NFL may be on the verge of moving another game. The Las Vegas Raiders have moved two OL to the COVID-19 list, so many not have enough eligible for Sunday’s scheduled game against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rules call for teams to dress eight OL per game. At the moment, the Raiders only have seven available. . . . The game already has been moved once. It was to have been played Sunday night, but the NFL moved it to the late afternoon slot the Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals to the night game. The NFL wants to guarantee that there is a game for Sunday Night Football.
JUST NOTES: The BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers have signed D Gianni Fairbrother, 20, who played the past three seasons with the Everett Silvertips. From North Vancouver, B.C., he was a third-round pick by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2019 NHL draft. . . . Mark Readman has joined the junior B Creston Valley Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League as assistant general manager and assistant coach. Readman, 25, spent last season as head coach of the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks of the junior B Northwest Junior Hockey League. In Creston, he will work alongside GM/head coach Bill Rotheisler.
F Connor Bedard, who turned 15 on July 17, is expected to play for the Regina Pats when/if a WHL season gets started in January. In the meantime, he’s playing for HV71, which is based in Jönköping, in Sweden’s U-20 league. Bedard played his first game in Sweden on Wednesday, going pointless in a 2-1 loss to Färjestad. . . .
Dave Struch, the Pats’ head coach and assistant general manager, told Taking Note that they released Bedard to HV71 “with the understanding that he will be back to us when we get going.”
The WHL has said it will open its regular season on Jan. 8.
“We have been in regular communication with Connor, his agent (Newport Sports Management) and HV71,” Struch said. “We have built a good relationship that we hope will benefit Connor’s development.”
Bedard was granted exceptional status that allows him to play regularly with the Pats at 15 years of age. He is the first WHL player to be given such status. Following that declaration, the Pats selected him with the first overall pick of the 2020 bantam draft, then signed him to a contract.
The break in the WHL schedule couldn’t have come at a better time for at least one head coach. Mitch Love of the Saskatoon Blades is about 14 weeks removed from having a hip replaced. “The hip is coming along. Sure glad I did it this offseason,” Love, 36, told Taking Note on Wednesday night. Love, who is preparing for his third season as the Blades’ head coach, has been on skates once since the surgery. But, as he said, “I’ll be active on it soon enough.” . . . Love also is an assistant coach with Canada’s national junior team, as is Michael Dyck, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants. André Tourigny, the head coach of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, is Canada’s head coach.
Dennis Beyak says it will be great to get back to work.
Beyak, one of TSN’s hockey play-by-play voices, will be spending part of December and January in an Edmonton bubble working the 2021 World Junior Championship.
The fun gets underway on Dec. 20 as TSN televises two exhibition games to kickoff a 10-game pre-tournament schedule. That will include a pair of Canadian games — versus Sweden on Dec. 21 and Russia on Dec. 23 — and two featuring Team USA — vs. Switzerland on Dec. 20 and Finland on Dec. 22.
The 10-team tournament starts for real on Dec. 25, one day earlier than it normally would. This is because all games will be played on the same ice surface ice surface. In order to accomplish, the schedule includes four days with three games each and two with four, including Jan. 2 when all four quarterfinals will be featured.
Canada opens on Dec. 26 against Germany, then meets Slovakia on Dec. 27, Switzerland on Dec. 29 and Finland on Dec. 31.
There aren’t any games scheduled for New Year’s Day, with quarterfinals on Jan. 2 and semifinals on Jan. 3. The third-place game is on Jan. 5 at 2:30 p.m. PT (5:30 p.m. ET) with the championship game to follow at 6:30 p.m. PT (9:30 p.m. ET). Yes, the good folks in the east will have to stay up past their bedtime to see the title decided.
Beyak and Gord Miller, as usual, will handle play-by-play duties. Miller, of course, gets lots of exposure, but Beyak, who is the TV voice of the Winnipeg Jets, is one of hockey’s best play-by-play secrets. Beyak did 60 TV games for the Jets last season; he hasn’t worked since March 12 when the Jets beat the host Edmonton Oilers, 4-2.
BTW, if you’re a veteran WHL follower you may remember Beyak as the play-by-play voice of the Flin Flon Bombers and later the Saskatoon Blades and Victoria Cougars. He also worked as the Blades’ assistant general manager and even did stints as the general manager of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans.
F Keegan Kolesar played four seasons (2013-17) with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, and now is with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. In fact, he was with them in the Edmonton bubble as they skated in the NHL playoffs, and he signed a one-year, two-way contract earlier this week. . . . But while Kolesar was with the Golden Knights, his father, Charles Peterson, died after a battle with the coronavirus. A former pro baseball player who had turned to scouting, he was 46. . . . Carter Brooks of fullpresshockey.com has that story right here.
The BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild will scrimmage twice in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, this week, on Thursday and Friday, and then again on Nov. 6 and 7, and Nov. 13 and 14. At the moment, at least eight WHLers are scheduled to participate — F Bear Hughes and F Erik Atchison of the Spokane Chiefs; F Mekai Sanders of the Seattle Thunderbirds; G James Porter Jr., who has played with the Kelowna Rockets and Spokane; D Luke Gallagher, who played with the Chiefs but is ticketed to the Wild this season; F Jack Lambert, who played four games with the Everett Silvertips last season; F Sal Collora, who got into five games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes last season; and Everett G Braden Holt. . . . The Wild are taking their show to Idaho for scrimmages because Washington state health regulations at the moment don’t allow 5-on-5 games with contact.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Lethbridge now has 147 active cases of COVID-19 with 44 on the west side, 56 on the north side and 47 on the south side. #YQLhttps://t.co/XTISd4N4yk
Global News: For the first time, B.C. has recorded more than 200 cases of COVID-19 in a single day.
CBC News: Alberta broke two COVID-19 records on Wednesday, for the most new cases in a single day, 406, and for the most active cases.
CBC Saskatchewan: COVID-19 in Sask: 57 new cases reported Wednesday, 3rd largest daily bump of pandemic.
CBC News: Manitoba posts 3rd-highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases, with 135 on Wednesday.
KOMO News: The Washington State Department of Health reported 720 new COVID-19 cases, 25 additional hospitalizations and four more deaths due to the virus.
KOIN News: Oregon reports 331 new COVID cases, 2 deaths.
The school board in Kennewick, Wash., the home of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, voted 3-2 on Wednesday to delay the start of middle and high school in-person learning until Feb. 2. The original plan was to have had hybrid learning — a mix of online and in class — begin on Nov. 2. The school district has had 16 positives since Aug. 26. . . .
The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) has cancelled all of its winter championships. From a news release: “The decision was made in response to the sport restrictions that are in place across the country, the variety of provincial health restrictions CCAA hosts were facing and the limitations effecting travel of teams across the country.” . . . The decision impacts badminton, men’s and women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball. . . . The curling championships were cancelled in September, while the CCAA cancelled golf, men’s and women’s soccer and cross-country in June. . . .
Michigan health officials have issued a “stay-at-home” order for the U of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. This order comes after the county in which the school is located experienced hundreds of new cases, including on campus, and contact tracing showed that students are ignoring restrictions. . . . So the students have been told to leave the campus or stay in residence unless they have an essential reason to go outside. . . . You won’t be surprised to learn that none of this applies to the Wolverines football team. . . . As Dustin Foote of Deadspin wrote: “If there is any silver lining to college sports in a pandemic, it’s that COVID-19 has revealed the rot of amateurism. There are different rules for ‘amateur’ athletes who generate money for the university versus the majority of students who do not.” . . . The Big Ten is to return to football action this weekend, and the Wolverines are to play at Minnesota on Saturday night.
JUST NOTES: Cameron Hope, who was the general manager of the WHL’s Victoria Royals for eight seasons (2012-20), has joined BC Hockey as its new chief executive officer. He replaces Barry Petrachenko, who, after 20 years with BC Hockey, was dismissed in April. . . . Enrico Ciccone, an enforcer in his hockey-playing days, now is a Liberal MNA in the Montreal riding of Marquette. As the opposition critic for sports, recreation and healthy lifestyles, he has presented a bill calling for the prohibition of fighting in sports, including hockey, for those under the age of 18. “Of course some people will say ‘look at this guy, he’s a hypocrite. He made a bunch of money and now he wants to change things,’ ” Ciccone told the Montreal Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky. “Of course I do. And I’m probably the best guy to do it. I’ll raise that flag for the safety of our kids, any time of the day. I don’t care.” Zurkowsky’s story is right here.
In 1991, Andre Dawson was called out looking by Cowboy Joe West and then ejected for arguing the call. He was fined $500 by the National League and paid it via check with the memo line filled out “Donation for the blind.” True story. I love Andre Dawson. pic.twitter.com/ngGRCYHYDO
A lot of Twitter chatter about a potential #OHL start. Keep in mind, it’s all a moving target – with governments and public health having a huge say. I think #OHL did it right not announcing hard dates earlier, because nobody knew. 2 league said October 1 – I couldn’t see it.
If you own a junior hockey franchise, you have to be watching the goings-on in MLB and wondering.
While the NBA and NHL have their teams all bubbled up and, at least to date, avoiding the coronavirus, you know that you don’t have the resources to attempt anything like that.
But then you look at MLB, which is attempting to do what you are hoping to do at some point this year — bring your team together and then travel in order to play games in various venues.
It isn’t going all that well for MLB, which is forging ahead despite having had two teams — the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals — decimated by the virus and another (Philadelphia Phillies) also been hit.
Through Tuesday, 23 MLB games involving nine teams had been postponed. The season is 13 days old.
At this point, then, you likely are holding your breath and hoping.
Earlier, the QMJHL and WHL had announced proposed starting dates of Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, respectively, for their 2020-21 regular seasons. The OHL hadn’t gone public with any such date.
Now there are reports that the three major junior leagues will announce perhaps as soon as today (Wednesday) that they hope to start their 2020-21 regular seasons on Dec. 1.
Postponing the start by two more months buys them some more time. The leagues will be able to sit back and watch developments, including the possible opening of schools.
The OHL and WHL also have teams located in the U.S., where, you may have noticed, things aren’t going so well. Two more months gives the leagues time to watch for improvements in that area, although under present leadership that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
And, of course, there’s the little matter of the U.S.-Canada border being closed. Do you think it’ll be open again in 2020?
I've got no problem with the season starting in December. But they're gonna cram 64 games into a time they'd normally play maybe 40? https://t.co/VREFiFnk90
The QMJHL return to play will be voted on early next week and will feature…. – 60 game schedule – 3 divisions (Maritime teams only play other Maritime teams in one, while two Quebec based division stay in Quebec) – Oct 1st regular season start. – Aug 27th on-ice camp start.
On Sunday, the Cincinnati Reds placed 1B Joey Votto, a native of Toronto, on the injury list after he self-reported symptoms of the virus. On Monday, he hit a two-run, go-ahead homer to help the Reds beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2. . . . It turns out that he tested negative and was reinstated. . . .
The much-ballyhooed Field of Dreams game, which was to have featured the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox on Aug. 13, has been postponed to August 2021. A date has yet to be announced. . . .
The Cardinals’ season is on hold after seven players and six staff members tested positive. . . . Six of the players are SS Paul DeJong, RHP Junior Fernández, C Yadier Molina, 1B Rangel Ravelo, SS Edmundo Sosa and RHP Kodi Whitley, each of whom gave the team the OK to release their names. The identity of a seventh player wasn’t released. . . . DeJong and Molina are all-star calibre players. . . . In a statement, Molina said he was “saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after adhering to safety guidelines that were put in place.” . . .
Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, had some thoughts on the mess in which MLB finds itself. He concluded with this: “Baseball in 2020 reminds me of a guy at a poker table who is losing his shirt but keeps dipping into his bank account for another stake because he is ‘due for some good cards.’ It seems to me that MLB thinks it is due for some good news and just keeps on keeping on. . . . Albert Einstein reminded us that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes.” . . . You should read the entirety of the curmudgeonly one’s latest post right here.
The NFL’s Detroit Lions moved QB Matthew Stafford from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and placed him on the regular roster, saying that what was reported as a positive test actually was a false-positive. . . . The Jacksonville Jaguars did the same with QB Gardner Minshew after it was determined that he had tested negative. Minshew joked that the virus “took one look at me and ran the other way.” . . .
At least 48 players have opted out of playing in the NFL’s 2020 season. The league has a deadline of Thursday afternoon for players to make that decision. . . . Barry Wilner of The Associated Press has more right here.
Rafael Nadal, the No. 2-ranked men’s tennis player, won’t play in this month’s U.S. Open, which is to start on Aug. 31. He said that he doesn’t want to travel during the pandemic. . . . The last time a tennis major didn’t feature either Roger Federer, who is out after having knee surgery, and Nadal? That was the 1999 U.S. Open. . . .
Meanwhile, Bianca Andreescu, who won the women’s U.S. Open title last year, said that she will be in New York to defend her title. . . . Andreescu, 20, from Mississauga, Ont., is the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title. . . .
The 104th running of the Indy 500 will take place without fans. Roger Penske, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said earlier in the year that the race, which was postponed from Memorial Day weekend to Aug. 23, would allow some fans to attend. . . . But with numbers rising in Marion County, Indiana, home of the Speedway, Penske has decided not to allow fans. . . .
The AHL has cancelled its 2020-21 All-Star Classic that was to have been played host to by the Laval Rocket on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Instead, Laval will be the site of the 2021-22 Classic on a date yet to be determined. . . . The AHL is hoping to being its 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 4. . . .
Tennis lost the Madrid Open as the 2020 event, which features men’s and women’s draws, was cancelled. Originally scheduled in May, it had been postponed to September. But an increase in COVID-19 cases resulted in the event being cancelled.
Among complaints from Colorado State athletes staffers: Coaches have told players not to report COVID-19 symptoms, threatened players with reduced playing time if they quarantine and claim CSU is altering contact tracing reports to keep players practicing https://t.co/OMjaq7GFsK
You will recall that the Houston Astros have been branded as cheaters after getting caught up in a sign-stealing scandal that has some baseball folks claiming the team actually stole a World Series title. . . . The other day, with the host Astros playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are particularly bitter, Houston’s Jose Altuve, who is really struggling at the plate, happened to strike out. Joe Davis, doing the play-by-play for the Dodgers, said Altuve was “perhaps guessing something else.” . . . Former Dodgers P Orel Hershiser, the analyst on the broadcast crew, disagreed. Said Hershiser: “Guessing’s harder than knowing.”
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former captain Ralph Klassen.
Ralph was an integral part of our club, playing 5 seasons and earning the 3rd overall selection in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft.
The QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes announced Tuesday that head coach Gordie Dwyer has left the organization in the hopes of landing a spot with a pro team. . . . Dwyer took over as head coach on Feb. 9, then went 6-6-0 before the league shut down because of the pandemic. . . . At the time, Dwyer took over from the fired Daniel Renaud, who had been the head coach since 2017. He was 23-28-0 last season. . . . The Cataractes will unveil their new coaching staff on Friday.
The Morden Redskins, a men’s team that plays in the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League, has said that it will be changing its nickname and logo, which was fashioned after that belonging to the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Last month, Brandon Burley, the mayor of Morden, asked the team to make a change.
JUST NOTES: I haven’t watched a whole lot of the NHL since it resumed playing, but I’ve seen enough to realize that, despite what you might read in the rules book, cross-checking continues to be legal. . . . I need to find someone in Alberta to cut me in on the Edmonton Oilers’ 50-50 draw. If you aren’t aware, the winner of Monday’s draw put $1,629,722.50 into his/her bank account. On Saturday night, Danielle McGale won $381,275. Yes, she has a whole lot of new friends. . . . I was watching the MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and host Minnesota Twins on Tuesday afternoon and there was a drone delay. Seriously.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Monday that the Minnesota Twins have told coaches Bob McClure, 68, and Bill Evers, 66, that they won’t be taking part in the 2020 season whenever it gets started.
The Twins said last week that an undisclosed number of players and one staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Numerous reports have indicated that people over the age of 65 have a much greater chance of dying from the coronavirus. The Twins are believed to be the first North American professional team to excuse older coaches from working with their team.
The NHL, NBA, NFL and especially MLB have numerous managers and coaches who are 60 years of age and older. Chances are that in the coming days we will hear about more MLB teams doing precisely what the Twins have done with McClure and Evers.
But what about the WHL? Might this be just one more thing its teams are going to have to deal with should they get to open training camps in mid-September and begin the season on Oct. 2?
The WHL has two head coaches past the age of 60 — Willie Desjardins of the Medicine Hat Tigers and Mike Johnston of the Portland Winterhawks, both of whom also are general managers, are 63.
Their are 11 other head coaches over the age of 50.
The WHL also has at least eight general managers 60 or older, beginning with Garry Davidson of the Everett Silvertips, at 69, and John Paddock of the Regina Pats, at 66.
There also are a couple of assistant coaches who have had at least 65 birthdays — Jerome Engele of the Saskatoon Blades is 69 and Portland’s Don Hay is 66.
Just more food for thought in these uncertain times.
The NHL announced on Monday that it knows of 26 players who have tested positive for COVID-19. Fifteen of those players were in training at team facilities. The other 11 were working out away from those facilities. . . . All 26 players have been self-isolated. . . . The NHL says there were 1,450 tests on more than 250 players administered to players who were working out in training facilities. . . . Still to announce its hub cities, the NHL has said it will release testing figures on a weekly basis. . . .
The Detroit Red Wings have cancelled the 2020 version of the eight-team prospect tournament that was to have been played in Traverse City, Mich., in early September. . . . The Red Wings also have moved the site of their 2020-21 training camp, whenever that might be held, to Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Ian Desmond is opting out of playing in MLB this season. In addition to Covid-19 he cites the MLB’s rampant racism, sexism, homophobia, cheating scandals, and labor wars. Please go to his Instagram to read the whole thing because, whew, it is outstanding. https://t.co/xnwg3vspxopic.twitter.com/2vIvpzLegB
OF Ian Desmond said Monday that he won’t be joining the Colorado Rockies for the 2020 MLB season. He made the announcement in a nine-panel posting on Instagram. . . . There’s more right here. . . .
Infielder Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross said Monday that they won’t be joining the Washington Nationals, the defending World Series champions, for the approaching season. Also opting out is pitcher Mike Leake of the Arizona Diamondbacks. . . . All three cited health and safety concerns related to the pandemic. . . .
The Arizona Diamondbacks revealed on Monday that three players on their 60-man roster have tested positive. Two of them were in Arizona, while wasn’t yet in Arizona. . . .
OF Hunter Bishop, the San Francisco Giants’ first-round draft pick in 2019, has tested positive in Arizona. He will miss at least the start of the Giants’ workouts that are to begin on Friday in San Francisco. . . .
They have been playing Minor League Baseball (MiLB) in the United States since 1901. Prior to Tuesday, a season never had been cancelled. That’s all changed now, as MiLB announced that there won’t be a 2020 season thanks to the pandemic. There are 160 minor league teams, including the Vancouver Canadians, under the MiLB umbrella.
The Denver Nuggets closed their training facility on Tuesday after the NBA team’s travelling party was found to include three positive tests. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that 35 people were preparing to head for Orlando, Fla., and the restart of the season when the trio tested positive. . . . It’s not known if the positives are players or staff. . . . C Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets tested positive in Serbia earlier in June, while head coach Michael Malone has said that he tested positive in March. . . .
The NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans have had three players test positive, but the team hasn’t identified them. All three were tested on June 23, along with all of their teammates. . . .
Two members of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets — G Spencer Dinwiddie and F DeAndre Jordan — have tested positive and won’t be joining the team in Orlando, Fla. . . . Dinwiddie told The Athletic that he has been experiencing symptoms — fever and chest tightness. . . . The Nets also will be without F Wilson Chandler, who has opted out.
Golf Canada has cancelled the CP Women’s Open that was to have been played at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver, Sept. 3-6. The 2021 LPGA event will be played at Shaughnessy. . . .
Chad Campbell is the sixth player from the PGA Tour to test positive. He was tested as part of the screening prior to the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which is to start Thursday in Detroit. . . . Meanwhile, three players — Jonathan Hodge, Taylor Montgomery and Brandon Wu — tested positive and had to withdraw from the Korn Ferry Tour event that starts today (Wednesday) in Colorado.
MLS announced that four players have tested positive on Monday and Tuesday. All told, 392 people were tested, all of whom are staying in the league’s bubble hotel in Orlando, Fla. . . . On the weekend, MLS announced that 18 players and six staff members had tested positive since early June. . . . The league’s MLS is Back tournament is scheduled to open on July 8. . . .
Officials cancelled the rest of the 2020 World Rugby Seven Series on Tuesday, meaning there won’t be stops in Langford, B.C., London, Paris, Singapore or Hong Kong. . . .
A statement on the University of Georgia website on Monday indicated that at least 143 members of the school’s community, including students and staff, have tested positive. . . .
Williams College, a NCAA Division 3 school in Williamstown, Mass., has cancelled all fall sports, but has yet to decide on winter and spring activities. . . . Two other New England-area schools, Bowdoin College and UMass-Boston, have said their teams won’t play in the fall, either. . . .
The Broadway League said Monday that theatres on Broadway in New York City are likely to remain closed at least through the end of 2020. Performances have been suspended since March 12. . . . Theatres are hoping to re-open early in January.
European hockey leagues' Return-to-Play plan, updated today with Belarus. Many of the data are best-case scenarios. Many changes expected until puck is dropped. pic.twitter.com/t7uiXF5Td1
Phil Andrews, the radio voice of the Regina Pats for the past nine seasons, said on Monday that he was leaving the post. He cited family reasons for his decision. . . . Andrews was the Pats’ director of media and communications, and handled the play-by-play duties. . . . His departure opens up one of the WHL’s plum play-by-play positions and you can bet that a lot of junior hockey radio types have been preparing resumes.
And a happy Bobby Bonilla Day to you, too. It’s July 1, which means that the New York Mets paid Bobby Bonilla US$1,193,248.20 as they have been doing since 2001. It’s all part of deferred payments that were part of his last contract. The payments began in 2011 and will run through 2035. Oh, and he hasn’t played since 2001.
Congratulations to outgoing @theahl President & CEO Dave Andrews on a Hall of Fame career! He attended every PHPA Annual Meeting and always made time to sit down and talk with the players. He is leaving the League and the game at our level in great shape! pic.twitter.com/XLPvkLXGsw
The junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League announced on Tuesday that Brad Knight “has stepped down” as general manager and head coach. . . . The Buccaneers had announced Knight’s signing early in May. He was returning to the team after being the head coach for its first two seasons (2012-14). . . . Last season, with then-owner Clayton Robinson as head coach, Nanaimo finished 14-23-11. . . . Robinson, who owned the franchise for about 18 months, sold the team to Carl Ollech, who owns some of Duncan Iron Works, in June. . . . Greg Sakaki of the Nanaimo Bulletin has more on the sale right here.
The CHL issued a release on Friday in response to the class-action lawsuit that was filed by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor with allegations of sexual, physical and mental abuse during their time in major junior hockey. . . . According to the news release, the CHL’s board of directors agreed Thursday “to the appointment of an independent review panel to thoroughly review the current policies and practices in our leagues that relate to hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying, and the allegation that players do not feel comfortable reporting behaviours that contravene these policies.” . . . The CHL says it will announced this panel’s chair person “in the coming weeks” and “our goal is to have the review process completed in time for the start of the 2020-21 season.”
Former WHL player Brad Hammett is going public and joining a proposed class-action lawsuit against the CHL, alleging he was sexually and physically abused by four teammates over the course of two seasons, starting in 1981-82.
On Thursday TSN’s Rick Westhead reported on a former WHL player who detailed the physical and sexual abuse he endured during two seasons in the league.
Westhead, who granted the player anonymity, revealed on Friday that the former player is Brad Hammett, who played with the Billings Bighorns and Nanaimo Islanders (1981-83).
According to Westhead, Hammett “subsequently decided he wanted to publish his story under his name, hoping that doing so might provide support to other players nervous about coming forward with similar stories.”
Hammett, 56, is joining the lawsuit filed against the CHL by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor, alleging various forms of abuse during their major junior careers. They are hoping to have the lawsuit certified as a class-action.
“I’ve lived with this a long time,” Hammett told Westhead, “and my family has often wondered why I have had moods. Talking about this, I feel there’s a weight off my shoulders. I know that it’s going to get better. I’m not hiding something.”
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, told TSN via email that “the league has spoken with Hammett and will investigate his claims.”
Some of Garrett Taylor’s allegations in the lawsuit against the CHL involve the 2008-09 Lethbridge Hurricanes. According to the statement of claim:
“He and a number of other rookies on the Hurricanes suffered abuse throughout the 2008-09 season. The abuse was perpetrated by older Lethbridge Hurricanes players and team staff, agents, employees and servants.”
Earlier this week, 26 players who played with the Hurricanes in 2008-09 signed a letter that appeared in the Lethbridge Herald.
“None of us can say that we were aware of absolutely everything that happened to every player on our team during their time with the Hurricanes. However, after thorough reviews and discussions among ourselves over the past few days, we can all unequivocally state that we were all treated with great respect and professionalism throughout that year and throughout all our years with the coaching staff of the Hurricanes.”
In an editorial published earlier this week, The Globe and Mail wrote:
“The underlying problem is that the system enables abuse. It’s time to get rid of a draft that treats children as chattel, and which allows a hockey league to operate under prehistoric notions of labour relations.
“Major junior hockey has to change, because hockey has changed. The NHL now prizes skilled players far more than the grinders and cement-handed role players of the past. . . .
“Many of the most sought after players these days are coming from Europe and the United States — including Canadians skipping major junior altogether, in favour of the U.S. college route. Mr. Carcillo’s lawsuit is just the latest reminder that Canada’s major junior hockey system has run its course.”
The Medicine Hat Cubs announced Friday that they won’t play in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League’s 2020-21 season. . . . “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and due to diminishing sponsorship revenues the board of directors voted in favour to not play in the upcoming season,” the team said in a news release. . . . The Cubs’ departure leaves the league with 13 teams. . . .
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas has halted voluntary workouts until at least July 5 after four student-athletes tested positive. . . . An undisclosed number of others who came in contacted with them also are in quarantine. . . .
Morehouse College, a historically black school in Atlanta, cancelled all fall sports, including football, on Friday. . . . David A. Thomas, Morehouse’s president, told The New York Times: “Responsible leaders have to see us as being in a crisis, and a characteristic of a crisis is unpredictability. Good management says any uncertainty you can take out of the equation you should take out. One element where we could create certainty is what are we going to do with athletics.” . . . An NCAA Division II program, the football team was to have opened its season on Sept. 5. . . . Mark Emmert, the NCAA president, later told The Times: “I’m afraid and confident in my fear that we’ll see more sports be dropped, whether it’s programs or entire seasons canceled.” . . .
Clemson U reported on Friday that 14 more of its football players have tested positive. That brings the the total of Tigers testing positive to 37 since training facilities open earlier this month. . . . All told, Clemson has had 43 student-athlete and four staff members come up positive. A total of 430 tests have been administered.
CB Melvin Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints isn’t comfortable about starting the NFL season in September. . . . Here’s what he told CNN:
“The NBA is a lot different than the NFL. They can actually quarantine all of their players, or whoever is going to participate, whereas we have over 2,000 players; and even more coaches and staff who can’t do that. So we end up being on this trust system — the honor system — where we just have to hope that guys are social distancing and things like that, and that puts all of us at risk. That’s not only us as players, and whoever’s in the building(s), but when we go home to families.
“I have parents that I don’t want to get sick. I think until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, and until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it — we have to understand that football is a non-essential business. We don’t need to do it. So the risk has to be eliminated before we — before I would feel comfortable with going back.”
We've reached peak NHL. A blank space has won the draft lottery.
The BCHL appears bound and determined to eliminate fighting from its games and, hey, good for them.
Brian Wiebe, who operates the BCHLNetwork, reports:
“The league has imposed stricter penalties for fighting in 2020-21. Players who engage in a fight are currently assessed a major penalty and an automatic game misconduct. Under the Junior A Supplement, which is the minimum standards adhered to by all 10 leagues in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, a player received supplemental discipline on their fifth fight of the season.
“The new rule sees a player receive supplemental discipline upon their second fighting major. The league has also cracked down on players deemed to be the instigator and/or aggressor in a fight, with both penalties now receiving a suspension upon the first offence. Subsequent instigator and/or aggressor penalties after the first one received will see a significant increase in suspension.”
Wiebe has a whole lot more on the BCHL and rule changes right here. If you’re a junior hockey fan and you aren’t following Wiebe, you really are cheating yourself. You’ll find him on Twitter at @Brian_Wiebe.
Jeff Harvey has signed on as the Saskatoon Blades’ goaltending coach. Harvey is a former WHL goaltender (Kootenay Ice, Swift Current Broncos, Everett Silvertips, 2000-04). . . . Harvey, now 37, and Blades head coach Mitch Love were teammates with the Silvertips in 2003-04 when Everett reached the WHL’s championship final in its first season in the league. . . . They also played together with the Broncos and with the Shreveport Mudbugs of the Central league in 2010-11. . . . It also should be pointed out that Harvey helped the Rosetown Redwings of the Sask Valley Hockey League to a pair of Saskatchewan senior AAA provincial titles and twice played in the Allan Cup. . . . Harvey replaces Tim Cheveldae on the Blades’ coaching staff.
Sooner or later, the Portland Winterhawks likely will be sold.
Why likely? Because never say never, and perhaps owner Bill Gallacher will end up keeping the WHL franchise.
But if the Winterhawks are sold, it will mark the ninth time a WHL franchise has changed hands since the Kamloops Blazers went from community to private ownership during the summer of 2007. Of course, it also will be the second time the Winterhawks will have changed hands since 2008.
However, as of Tuesday night, there didn’t appear to be anything new regarding the Winterhawks’ situation, The WHL’s top regular-season team in the shortened 2019-20 regular-season is in receivership after a number of Gallacher-owned companies filed for bankruptcy last week.
Steve Ewen of Postmedia, who covers the Vancouver Giants, writes that “a WHL general manager, who requested anonymity, says he expects a ‘lineup’ of interested buyers for the Winterhawks . . .”
Yes, the vultures will be circling.
The last WHL franchise to have changed hands was the Seattle Thunderbirds.
One source who knows his way around the WHL told Taking Note on Tuesday: “Bet Russ Farwell is patting himself on the back . . .”
Farwell was the Thunderbirds’ governor and general manager, and also owned a piece of the action when that deal went down in 2017.
“WHL teams don’t change hands often and sale prices are rarely made public, as you’d expect. The Seattle Thunderbirds were sold in October of 2017, going from a group led by longtime Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell to brothers Dan and Lindsey Leckelt, who own Silent-Aire, an engineering and data centre equipment manufacturing company based in Edmonton.
“Multiple sources say the Thunderbirds were sold for US$12 million. That’s never been confirmed.”
Six months before the Thunderbirds changed hands, the Chynoweth family sold the Kootenay Ice to Winnipeggers Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell. After two winters in Cranbrook, they moved the franchise to Winnipeg immediately after the 2018-19 season.
The Regina Pats were sold in April 2014 with Russ and Diane Parker of Calgary, who had owned the franchise for 19 years, selling to a local group comprising Jason Drummond, Todd Lumbard, Anthony Marquart, Gavin Semple and Shaun Semple. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the sale price “is believed to be in the neighbourhood of Cdn$7.5 million.”
In March of 2014, Rick Brodsky sold the Prince George Cougars to a group that includes local businessmen Ray Fortier, Ernest Ouellet, John Pateman and Greg Pocock, along with two former Cougars defencemen — Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis. The sale price was reported by the Prince George Citizen as being close to Cdn$7 million. Brodsky had bowed out of his family’s ownership of the Saskatoon Blades to purchase the Cougars franchise in 1992 when it was playing out of Victoria.
After owning the Saskatoon Blades for 37 years, the Brodsky family sold the franchise to Mike Priestner of Edmonton, who owns Go Auto, on Aug. 27, 2013. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported the sale price as Cdn$9 million.
On April 4, 2011, the WHL confirmed the sale of the Chilliwack Bruins by owners Jim Bond, Brian Burke, Moray Keith, Darryl Porter and Glen Sather to RG Properties, which was headed up by Graham Lee. He moved the franchise to Victoria where it operates as the Royals.
Bill Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks in August 2008, buying the franchise from John Bryant, Jack Donovan and Jim Goldsmith. The sale price was believed to have been about US$6 million.
The Kamloops Blazers were sold over the summer of 2007, with Tom Gaglardi, the president of Northland Properties and now the owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, partnering with former players Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor to purchase the franchise from community shareholders. The sale price was about Cdn$6.1 million.
So what will be the price tag on the Winterhawks?
Well, if this was four or five months ago, one might have guessed it to be somewhere around US$12 million.
However, in these pandemic times — I mean, can anyone guarantee when/if the next season will begin? — and with the franchise in receivership and the vultures circling, it just might go for something less than that.
Or could the WHL step in and purchase the franchise for a healthy price, if for no other reason than to protect the values of its other 21 franchises, and then try to find new ownership once we find out what things will look like when we get to wherever we are going?
These are bizarre times in which we find ourselves living and there are oh, so many questions, aren’t there?
With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.
Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one a zinger from H.L. Mencken: “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
There have been reports that Vince McMahon, he of grapplin’ fame, is working to sell his football league, the XFL. If you’re interested, The Sports Curmudgeon has a few words of warning: “If you are thinking that it might be a hoot to put in a bid for ‘3 easy payments of only $39.95,’ let me offer a word of caution and suggest that you might wind up as the owner.”
One more thing regarding The Sports Curmudgeon . . . if you aren’t a regular reader of his work, you should at least consider taking a look at his Tuesday post. He tackled two questions: 1. What might sports be like in a post-COVID-19 world?, and 2. Are sports important with regard to (a) ‘return to normalcy?’ . . . It’s all right here.
Schools are going to reopen in Nebraska in August. But no science classes will be taught. The governor is calling for the arrest of anybody caught teaching science, which he doesn't believe in.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said Tuesday that there won’t be any special treatment given to the NHL if it wants to use Vancouver as a hub for its proposed return to play. . . . “I’m not going to compromise safety for any organization, whether it’s the NHL or anything else, as much as I love hockey,” Dr. Henry said during her daily briefing. If the NHL is to bring teams into Vancouver, she said, all people involved with the teams and arriving from outside Canada would have to self-isolate for two weeks. . . .
The Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s largest annual fair, has been cancelled for 2020. It was to have been held from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 in Toronto. . . .
The California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) announced Tuesday that its schools “have determined that NCAA sport competition will not occur during the fall of 2020.” . . . This news came after the U.S.’s largest four-year college system, the California State University (CSU), announced most classes will be presented online in the fall. CSU has 23 schools. . . .
Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, said at a news conference on Tuesday that pro sports can resume in his state, without fans, as of May 16. He said leagues and teams would have to provide public health protections and follow guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control. . . .
There are 41 theaters on Broadway in New York City that are part of the Broadway League. They announced Tuesday that they will remain closed through at least Sept. 6, which is Labour Day.
When the Detroit Pistons were winning NBA titles, they were a fearsome aggregation of aggressive players. As Charles Barkley explained on Facebook: “Those guys were out there trying to hurt people. . . . When you were playing the Pistons you had to call home and tell your family you love them just in case you never saw them again.”
Aris Brown, the 18-year-old son of NFL great Jim Brown, who is 84, has committed to play lacrosse at Hampton University. As Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot wrote: “It appears that Jim enjoyed a strong fourth quarter.”