Hamilton gets last slot in 2022 Memorial Cup . . . Fun begins Monday in Saint John . . . Long-time Edmonton columnist writes Oil Kings for last time

OK. The field is set, and next week the eyes of junior hockey followers will be on MemCup2022Saint John, N.B., site of the 2022 Memorial Cup tournament. Thanks to COVID-19, this will be the first time the four-team championship has been held since 2019.

(NOTE: If you’re travelling that way, remember that Saint John is in New Brunswick, while St. John’s is in Newfoundland.)

The OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs became the last team to qualify when they beat the visiting Windsor Spitfires, 6-1, on Wednesday night, to win the best-of-seven championship series and the J. Ross Robertson Cup, 4-3. The Bulldogs, who scored the game’s first four goals, got three scores from F Avery Hayes.

The game drew an announced attendance of 11,779. In their seven seasons in Hamilton, the Bulldogs now have won two titles.

This was the first time the OHL had gotten through its playoffs since 2019 when the Guelph Storm won the championship.

The Bulldogs join the host Saint John Sea Dogs, who play in the QMJHL, the QMJHL-champion Shawinigan Cataractes, and the Edmonton Oil Kings, who won the WHL title on Monday by taking out the Seattle Thunderbirds in six games.

The Oil Kings last played in the Memorial Cup in 2014 when they beat the OHL’s Guelph Storm, 6-3, in the tournament final in London, Ont. That was the first time a WHL team had won the trophy since 2008 when the Spokane Chiefs beat the host Kitchener Rangers, 4-1, in the final.

Since 2014, the WHL has been represented by the Kelowna Rockets (Quebec City, 2015), Brandon Wheat Kings and Red Deer Rebels (host team, 2016), Seattle (Windsor, 2017), Swift Current Broncos and Regina (host team, 2018), and Prince Albert Raiders (Halifax, 2019).

How did those WHL teams do? Well, the Rockets lost in the 2015 final, 2-1 in OT to the Oshawa Generals. The Rebels went 2-1 in 2016 before losing a semifinal, 3-1 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, while the Wheat Kings went 0-3. In 2017, the Thunderbirds were 0-3. In 2018, Regina went 2-1, then beat Hamilton, 4-2, in a semifinal, before losing 3-0 in the final to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. The Broncos, meanwhile, went 0-3.

In 2019, the last time the tournament was held, the Raiders finished 0-3.

What all of this shows us is that the WHL champs haven’t fared well of late; in fact, they have combined to lose their last 13 games. The last time the WHL champion won a Memorial Cup game was on May 29, 2015, when Kelowna beat the Quebec Remparts, 9-3, in a semifinal game.

And every time the WHL champion strikes out the question — Why don’t WHL champions do better at the Memorial Cup? — gets slapped around social media like a Wiffle ball.

Bob Green, a longtime WHL executive who now is the Edmonton Oilers’ chief scout, tried to explain it to columnist Terry Jones:

“The Memorial Cup is a bit of a mystery to everybody. It’s a hard tournament to figure out. I don’t know if you ever do figure it out. You just go there and try to play and see what happens. It’s completely different than the rest of the playoffs. But I believe this Oil Kings team has the best chance of all the clubs of this Edmonton era to do it.”

One other thing about competing in the Memorial Cup — if you get off to a poor start, your tournament is over almost before you know what hit you.

The 2022 Memorial Cup opens Monday in Saint John with Hamilton meeting the host Sea Dogs. On Tuesday, it’ll be Shawinigan facing Edmonton.

——

Terry Jones wasn’t expecting the phone call that he received on Wednesday. A sports columnist with Edmonton newspapers since 1967, he tweeted: “My last scoop. At 1 p.m. today, after beginning my career at The Edmonton Journal in 1967 I received a phone call from Toronto informing me my position had been eliminated by Post Media. Thank you all so much for reading. Hardly the way I hoped it would end.”

Later, he tweeted that he was “just gutted.”

What turns out to possibly be the last column of his newspaper career dealt with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings and their upcoming appearance at the Memorial Cup. That piece is right here.


Then-owner Ron Dixon moved the WHL’s New Westminster Bruins to Kennewick, Wash., in 1988, and the Tri-City Americans have made the Toyota Center their home. All that time, the team’s fans have spent their game-watching evenings in orange seats. But those days are over. The removal of the old seats began this week and now people are wondering what colour the new seats will be.

Here’s what radio station KFLD discovered: “Apparently, it’s a surprise. We searched, looked, and even asked officials. Several told us we will find out soon enough . . . the suspense builds!”




Trailer


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Day

Timing not right for one WHL award . . . Oil Kings draw first blood as playoffs begin . . . Wheat Kings borrow Broncos’ radio voice

Having spent more than 40 years paying close attention to the WHL, mostly as a sports reporter at four different daily newspapers and lately in retirement, I WHLlearned a long time ago not to pay a lot of attention to post-season awards.

While they rarely make everyone happy, they almost always end up as a source for discussion among fans. It also seems that there almost always are one or two that seem to carry with them something of a political odour.

The WHL announced a whole bunch of awards and nominations and all-star teams on Thursday, and one of them was a real eyebrow-raiser.

The way things work in the WHL is that the divisional nominees for various awards are named, then at some point the list is shortened to conference nominees. Then, much later, the league award winners are announced.

On Thursday, then, the Prince Albert Raiders were revealed as the East Division nominee for the WHL Business Award. According to a WHL news release, this award goes annually to the organization “that best exemplifies giving back to the community and producing an electrifying game-day experience for fans.”

While I have no doubt that the Raiders meet the criteria — you are able to read about the group’s accomplishments right here — let us not forget that the organization was guilty of a real mis-step during the season.

It was early in the season when the Raiders revealed that they were revisiting their past to introduce an alternate sweater. That sweater would include a logo that harkened back to the early 1980s, one that no longer is seen as being politically correct.

The end result included an apology from Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, who said in a statement: “On Friday night, the Prince Albert Raiders unveiled an alternate third jersey, which was inspired by a highly successful era in club history. We recognize the dated design is insensitive and offensive. After consultation with the Prince Albert Raiders, this uniform and brand will be discontinued effective immediately. On behalf of the WHL and the Prince Albert Raiders, we regret this uniform design was approved and sincerely apologize for any harm it may have caused.”

(You only have to turn to Google and look for “Prince Albert Raiders logo offensive” to see the reaction to the unveiling of the alternate sweater.)

It should also be remembered that early in the 2013-14 season the Raiders had introduced a new mascot that was fashioned after that same logo. It was met with such a response that it was put back in the closet in short order.

Look, you don’t have to dig very deep these days to find incidents involving racism in various levels of hockey, each of them accompanied with comments about how hockey really has to do better if it is ever to rid itself of these occurrences.

While I don’t doubt that the Raiders have done a whole lot of good work that benefited their community, I would suggest this just wasn’t the right time to salute them by giving them the East Division’s WHL Business Award.

——

If you visit the WHL website at whl.ca you will find all of Thursday’s announcements, including conference first- and second-team all-stars and individual award nominees.


Child


There are few things in life that compare to the histrionics hockey coaches go Everettthrough when asked about injuries to any of their players, especially during playoffs. . . . Take the case of Dennis Williams, the general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, who will open their first round tonight against the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . Everett didn’t have Olen Zellweger, the WHL’s highest-scoring defenceman, for its last two games, while F Jackson Berezowski, a 46-goal man, sat out the last game. . . . Asked on Wednesday about their status, Williams told Steve Ewen of Postmedia: “You’re just going to have to wait and see on Friday. I won’t be commenting on any injuries.” . . . That came a day after Williams, when asked about Zellweger, told Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald: “Olen will be set to play.” . . . The betting here is that Berezowski and Zellweger both are in the lineup.



Flower


THURSDAY IN THE WHL:

In Edmonton, G Sebastian Cossa stopped 25 shots to lead the Oil Kings to a 4-1 Edmontonvictory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . The Oil Kings lead the best-of-seven first-round series, 1-0, with Game 2 scheduled for Edmonton on Saturday. . . . Cossa lost his bid for his first playoff shutout when F Tyson Laventure scored, on a PP, at 18:12 of the third period. . . . Cossa has 14 regular-season shutouts in his career. But with the playoffs being cancelled each of the previous two seasons, this was his first post-season appearance. . . . F Carter Souch scored the game’s first goal, at 9:30 of the second period, with F Dylan Guenther upping the lead to 2-0 at 14:47. . . . The Hurricanes got 44 saves from G Bryan Thomson. . . . There are seven playoff games scheduled for tonight, with eight set for Saturday.


JUNIOR JOTTINGS: When Brandon opens its first-round playoff series against the host Red Deer Rebels on Friday night, Craig Beauchemin will be the radio voice of the Wheat Kings. Beauchemin, the play-by-play voice of the Swift Current Broncos, will handle all Wheat Kings playoff games after Branden Crowe left to join Hockey Canada. . . .

G Garin Bjorklund and D Dru Krebs, both from the Medicine Hat Tigers, have joined the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Bjorklund, who will turn 20 on May 28, was a sixth-round pick by the Capitals in the NHL’s 2020 draft. Krebs, who turned 19 on Feb. 16, was taken by Washington in the sixth round of the 2021 draft. . . .

D Logan Nijhoff, 20, will finish the season with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. He was the Regina Pats’ captain this season. . . . Earlier in the week, he was named the 2022 Dayna Brons Honorary Award recipient for his work with Hockey Gives Blood. . . . The Pats also saluted Nijhoff with the Mike Kartusch Community Service Award.


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


Peanuts


JUST NOTES: Vaughn Rody was a WHL linesman back in the day, before going on to work 21 seasons in the NHL. Rody is from Winnipeg and now lives in Lake Stevens, Wash. It was only fitting that the final game of his NHL career should come in Seattle on Wednesday as the Kraken beat the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2. . . .

Tom Renney, who once coached with the Kamloops Blazers, is retiring from Hockey Canada, effective July 1, after eight years as the CEO. Sean Smith, already Hockey Canada’s president, will add CEO to his office door. . . . “This is a decision I have been preparing for over the past year and while it is never easy, I know the time is right and I am grateful for the past eight years,” Renney, a Cranbrook native, said in a news release. . . .

Carla MacLeod, the head coach of the U of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team, has been named head coach of the Czechia national women’s team. She is the first woman to be that team’s head coach. . . .

Jokerit, a pro hockey team that plays out of Helsinki, spent eight seasons in the KHL before pulling out late in February after Russia attacked Ukraine. Now it has announced that, while it won’t operate in 2022-23, it hopes to return to Finland’s top league (Liiga) for 2023-24. It’s also worth noting that former Edmonton Oilers star Jari Kurri now is Jokerit’s sole owner after buying the 40 per cent of the club that had been owned by the Russian company Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta Oy. . . .

Adam DiBella has been named head coach of the junior B Nelson Leafs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He replaces his father, Mario, who has chosen to retire. Adam spent four seasons as an assistant coach alongside his father. . . . Lance Morey remains as the Leafs’ general manager. . . .

Mark Peterson is the new head coach of the U-18 AAA Saskatoon Contacts. He had been the team’s director of scouting and recruitment. Peterson replaces Dale Lambert.


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Dawn

Scattershooting on a Saturday night while feeling part of One World: Together at Home . . .

Scattershooting


There was an interesting development in B.C. on Saturday as Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said in her daily pandemic-related briefing that “realistically, we will not be having those big events where people gather together this summer.”

She added: “I would tell people to think small. We are not going to be having large gatherings.”

While suggesting there may be an easing of some restrictions in mid-May, she said: “We can’t lose sight that we continue to have people who are affected by this, we continue to have outbreaks, we continue to have transmission, and so we are not at the point yet where we can let (down) our guard. . . . The storm is still raging, and tragically we see that in the fact that people are still dying from this virus in B.C.”

While Dr. Henry doesn’t appear to have defined the beginning and end of summer, it seems that the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), the West Coast’s biggest annual show, is in for change. This year, it is scheduled to open on Aug. 22 and run through Sept. 7.

On Saturday, the PNE issued a news release that read, in part:

“Because of COVID-19, this summer will look different at the PNE. The opportunities to celebrate will be different and we absolutely recognize that our plans for the PNE Fair and Playland will need to adjust accordingly. . . .

“So stay tuned, the events may be smaller, and protocols may be different, but we have a few bright ideas up our sleeve for when the time is right.”

Dr. Henry explained: “We do not have enough herd immunity or community immunity to protect everybody and allow that type of event to happen. So I think we’ll see be seeing, globally, those types of events — large parades, large mass gatherings where we all come together — those will not be happening this summer.”

That wouldn’t seem to bode well for any sports leagues/teams that operate in the summer months in B.C., including the Vancouver Whitecaps, B.C. Lions and Vancouver Canadians. As much as we all want to see junior hockey up and running again, you really have to wonder what the future holds, especially considering that major junior, junior A and junior B teams normally would open camps in August.

B.C. is home to five WHL teams, 17 junior A teams, all of them in the BCHL, and 19 junior B teams in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

Still, hockey fans have to get through four months to get to mid-August and a lot can happen between now and then. Right?


TurnSignal


Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, announced on Friday that the federal government was making $500 million in relief aid available for arts, culture and sports. . . . Lance Black, the president of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies, told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist: “We definitely need to get that help.” . . . Black added: “We are hurting because our sponsors are hurting. This is the time of year we would be out selling advertising. We need the money but no one is buying advertising.” . . . Junior A and junior B teams also won’t be gaining revenue from spring camps, all of which have been cancelled. . . . Dheensaw’s complete story is right here.



The 53rd annual IMG Academy Junior World Championships golf tournament, scheduled for July 4-10 in San Diego, has been cancelled. It draws more than 1,200 golfers on an annual basis. . . .

Soccer’s English Premier League has been shut down for about a month now with no end in sight. . . . Karren Brady, West Ham’s chief executive, writing in The Sun newspaper: “Players will have been able to retain some physical fitness at home. But if social-distancing rules are still in place, physical match-play training will not be allowed — you can’t tackle from two meters away. So, how match-fit will players be if the season commences, as we all hope it will, by mid-June?” . . .

The NBA revealed that players will taking a 25 per cent cut in pay. The first slash will be evident in the payments of May 15. The NBA regular-season would have ended on Wednesday had play not been suspended with 259 games yet to be played. . . .

The MLS announced that it won’t re-open until at least June 8. It has been out of action since March 12. . . .

More golf tournaments have been cancelled, this time in Europe. The BMW International that was to have been played in Munich, from June 25-28, and the Open de France that was scheduled for the following week have been postponed. . . . Large public gatherings have been banned in France through mid-July and in Germany through Aug. 31. . . . The Scottish Open (July 9-12) also has been postponed.


Clinton


Hannah Keyser, a baseball writer for Yahoo, watched the movie Hoosiers for the first time the other night. Her reaction: “I was not prepared for this much upper thigh.”



Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “I began social distancing years ago when somebody would approach and try to tell me about his fantasy football team.”


Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, with some news from the Little Apple: “Forbidden Spirits Distilling near Kelowna offered the locals free coronavirus disinfectant, but the jockeying in line quickly devolved into fistfights. In other words, they scheduled a hand-sanitizer giveaway — and a hockey game broke out.”


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought For the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”


Dale Lambert is the new head coach of the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Lambert, 60, had an extensive playing career in England. He is a brother to Ross and Lane Lambert, the latter the associate coach with the NHL’s New York Islanders. . . . Lane (1981-83) and Ross (1982-83) both spent time with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. . . . Dale will take over from long-time Contacts’ head coach Marc Chartier, another former Blades player.


Men

Pats to select first, plan on taking Bedard . . . NHL postpones draft . . . Opening of CFL season in doubt?

The Regina Pats will have the first selection in the WHL’s bantam draft. That was determined in the annual draft lottery that as held in the WHL’s Calgary office on Wednesday morning. . . . The draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . .

And what will the Pats do with that selection? Here’s Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post:

“Shortly after Regina was awarded the top pick via Wednesday’s lottery, GM John PatsPaddock revealed to the Regina Leader-Post that his team will indeed select blue-chip forward Connor Bedard, who has been granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada.”

Paddock told Harder: “We will be selecting him first. I would have said this regardless but the exceptional status made it even more obvious to everybody. There’s no secret with this. He’ll be a Regina Pat, that’s for sure.”

Harder’s complete story is right here.

So . . . you’re wondering how the Pats ended up with the first pick that actually originated with the Swift Current Broncos? Here’s how it happened . . . 

It all began on Jan. 9, 2018, when the Hurricanes traded G Stuart Skinner, F Giorgio Estephan and F Tanner Nagel to the Broncos for G Logan Flodell, F Logan Barlage, F Owen Blocker, D Matthew Stanley, first- and third-round picks in the 2020 bantam draft and a conditional second-rounder in 2021.

On Nov. 29, 2018, the Pats dealt F Jake Leschyshyn and F Nick Henry to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for F Jadon Joseph, F Ty Kolle, five bantam draft selections — including a 2020 first-rounder that had been Swift Current’s — and two conditional bantam draft picks.

That turned into an early selection when the Broncos, who won the WHL’s 2017-18 championship, finished with the league’s poorest record in 2019-20.

When the lottery was held yesterday, a Prince George Cougars’ ball fell, allowing them to move up from fourth to second — that is the maximum advancement permitted under draft rules. . . . The Cougars also hold the 11th and 17th picks, from the Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers, respectively.

The first-round order:

1. Regina Pats (from Swift Current Broncos via Lethbridge)

2. Prince George Cougars

3. Moose Jaw Warriors

4. Tri-City Americans

5. Saskatoon Blades (from Regina Pats)

6. Red Deer Rebels

7. Seattle Thunderbirds

8. Kelowna Rockets

9. Victoria Royals

10. Vancouver Giants

11. Medicine Hat Tigers (from Saskatoon)

12. Calgary Hitmen

13. Brandon Wheat Kings

14. Winnipeg Ice

15. Prince Albert Raiders

16. Lethbridge Hurricanes

17. Prince George Cougars (from Medicine Hat)

18. Spokane Chiefs

19. Kamloops Blazers

20. Edmonton Oil Kings

21. Swift Current Broncos (from Everett Silvertips)

22. Prince George Cougars (from Portland Winterhawks)

For the second and all ensuing rounds, the draft order follows the inverse order of the 2019-20 standings.

——

The WHL held its inaugural two-round draft of U.S. prospects on Wednesday afternoon. . . . All of the selections are listed right here.


Dinos


The NHL has postponed its annual draft, but hasn’t provided a new date. It was to have been held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, June 26 and 27. . . . The NHL also postponed its scouting combine and awards ceremony. The combine would have taken place in Buffalo, from June 1-6, with the awards ceremony in Las Vegas on June 18. . . .


Bob McKenzie, the godfather of hockey insiders, reported on TSN on Tuesday that the NHL has asked teams to look into the availability of their home arenas through the end NHLof August.

Emily Kaplan of ESPN later chatted with Nick Foligno, the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here is part of their conversation:

“I don’t know if I should be saying this, but I will. I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense for us to play into August. I think that’s pretty dangerous coming into another season. You want to have a great season the following season, and I don’t know if that gives guys enough time to rest and recover.

“If you think of the amount of games some guys would play, you’re adding on another 20 games, plus a full season, then playoffs again. That’s dangerous for some players, especially star players — the guys fans want to see — they’re usually playing deep into the playoffs, so we have to be cognizant of their health and safety. We want to make our league as great as it could be going into this big TV deal that everybody knows about. There’s so much that goes into it.”

The complete conversation is right here.


The 2020 North American Indigenous Games have been postponed until some point in 2021. The Games had been scheduled for K’jipuktuk/Halifax, N.S., July 12-18. . . . There isn’t a date set for next year but organizers are hoping for some time during the summer. . . . The 2020 B.C. Summer Games that had been scheduled for Maple Ridge have been cancelled. They were to have been held July 23-26. Maple Ridge will play host to the Games in 2024. . . . The 2020 Canada 55+ Games that were to have been held in Kamloops have been postponed to 2021. They had been scheduled for Aug. 25-28. . . . These Games are held every two years in late August. They have been held in even-numbered years, but that rotation will be broken in 2021. . . .


The Russia-based KHL has cancelled the remainder of its season. The KHL was into its playoffs and had hoped to be able to finish in time, but now has given up on that happening. . . .


The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes told full-time employees on Wednesday that they won’t be getting paid after the end of this week. . . . The Super League’s Toronto Wolfpack has laid off its Canadian staff, putting 12 full-time employees out of work until play resumes. . . .


The B.C. Lions are scheduled to hold training camp in Kamloops from May 13 through June 3. I’m thinking that is about seven weeks away. I’m also thinking that isn’t going to happen. . . . So it may not be long before the CFL announces Plan B. . . .


If you feel like clicking on that DONATE button over there on the right and making a contribution, please go ahead. . . .


The below tweet shows the price of gas in Walsh, Alta., just east of Medicine Hat, on Tuesday:


The Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, who is at sportscurmudgeon.com, courtesy of Mark Twain: “How lucky Adam was. He knew when he said a good thing, nobody had said it before.” . . .


Clown


With the French Open already having been rescheduled, it now seems that Wimbledon could get the same treatment. It is scheduled for June 29 through July 12 but the All England Lawn Tennis Club now is saying the event could be postponed or, yes, even cancelled. . . . The French Open, originally scheduled for May 24 through June 7 at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, now is to be held from Sept. 20 through Oct. 4. It is to start one week after the conclusion of the U.S. Open. . . .


Terry Jones of Postmedia reports that Edmonton is likely to lose the Volleyball Super Nationals that were scheduled for May 13-19, and also the Triathlon World Series Grand Final and World Championships, Aug. 17-23. . . . While the triathlon event is expected to be moved to 2021, the next Volleyball Super Nationals isn’t scheduled until 2022. . . .



Beans

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