Beyak chooses to end things on his terms . . . Revisiting two epic WHL comebacks . . . Oil Kings end Hurricanes’ season

Rich Franklin spent time in the front office of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and now is an executive with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. . . . The above tweet is from the Kraken’s home game on Wednesday night and I have to tell you that it warms my heart.


DennisBeyak
DENNIS BEYAK

Dennis Beyak, one of hockey’s best play-by-play voices, has decided to partially retire when this season is over, something that will happen for him on Sunday. Beyak has been the voice of the Winnipeg Jets on TSN since 2011. Unfortunately, because of blackout regulations, a lot of hockey fans likely have never heard him call an NHL game. . . . Beyak, who turned 70 on Nov. 23, will call his final Jets’ game on Sunday afternoon when they meet the visiting Seattle Kraken. . . . Thankfully, we will be able to hear him on occasion as TSN plans on giving him some international assignments. His work on many World Junior Championship games that don’t involve Team Canada has been terrific. . . . Here’s hoping he’s on the call for some games from the WJC in Edmonton in August. . . .

If you aren’t aware, Beyak is a former WHL play-by-play man and also a former WHL executive. . . . He began his play-by-play career at CFAR in Flin Flon in 1970 as the voice of the Bombers at a salary of $57.50 per week. He would go on to call the play for the Saskatoon Blades, Victoria Cougars and Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . He had stints in management, too, as the Blades’ assistant general manager and as GM of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans. . . . He also has been the play-by-play voice of the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. . . .

Scott Billeck of the Winnipeg Sun wrote that Beyak explained his decision this way: “When I turned 70, I started to think about this, about how much longer I wanted to do this. I always wanted to kind of go out while I was still able to do it. I didn’t want to get to the point where I was questioning myself — should I have done it earlier?” . . .

Oh, and did I mention that he is an excellent emcee, who could have been a standup comedian?


Weight


Only two teams in WHL history have fallen behind 0-3 and gone on to win a best-of-seven series — the 1995-96 Spokane Chiefs and the 2012-13 Kelowna Rockets.

Let’s take a brief look back, shall we . . .

The Chiefs completed the 1995-96 regular season with a 50-18-4 record — that Spokanefour denotes ties (remember them?). They wound up atop the seven-team West Division. The Portland Winterhawks, meanwhile, finished in sixth place, at 30-39-3.

The series opened in Spokane with games on March 22 and 23, and the Winterhawks skated to 3-2 (OT) and 7-4 victories. They won the opener on F Brad Isbister’s goal at 6:23 of OT, then got three goals and two assists from F Richard Zednik in Game 2.

Playing at home on March 26, Portland got two goals and two assists from Todd Robinson, with Zednik chipping in two goals and an assist, in a 6-4 victory. And just like that the Winterhawks led the series, 3-0.

But one night later the Chiefs got out to a 4-1 lead before the first period was 13 minutes old and went on to a 5-3 victory. F Darren Sinclair and F Jason Podollan each scored twice for the visitors.

Back in Spokane on March 29, G David Lemanowicz turned aside 34 shots as the Chiefs won, 5-0. Podollan had three goals and an assist, giving him six scores in the five games.

The series headed back to Portland for Game 6 and the Chiefs won, 4-3, to get back on equal footing. After Spokane F Joe Cardarelli tied it on a PP with his second goal of the game, and fourth of the series, at 19:29 of the third period, the teams went into double OT before deciding it. It ended when F Randy Favaro struck for his first goal at 3:50.

On April 3, the Chiefs, playing at home, wrapped up the series with a 4-3 victory. Again, the teams went to OT, with Sinclair winning it 58 seconds into extra time.

The Chiefs went on to eliminate the Kamloops Blazers in six games, then would lose the WHL championship final to the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games. Only one of Spokane’s last 11 playoff games needed OT.

——

In 2012-13, the Rockets finished with a 52-16-4 record, good for second place Kelownain the Western Conference, while the Seattle Thunderbirds wound up 24-38-10 and in seventh place.

Their seven-game series would feature five games that needed extra time to decide a winner.

The first two games were played in Kelowna with the Thunderbirds winning twice in OT — 5-4 on a goal by F Luke Lockhart at 19:09 and 2-1 when F Alex Delnov scored at 2:41.

The series then headed for Kent, Wash., where Seattle won Game 3, 3-2, scoring the game’s last three goals and winning when D Evan Wardley counted at 4:55 of OT. That left the Thunderbirds with what appeared to be a commanding 3-0 lead.

The Rockets started the long road back on March 27, winning 4-0 in Kent, behind two goals and an assist from F Tyson Baillie, a goal and two assists from F Zach Franko, and 25 saves from G Jordan Cooke.

They played Game 5 three nights later in Kelowna, with the Rockets building a 4-1 lead and hanging on to win, 4-3, as Seattle counted twice in the game’s last minute.

Then it was back to Kent for an April 2 game that the Rockets won, 4-3 in OT, to tie the series, 3-3. Game 6 was bizarre in that the first six goals all were scored in the first period. Lockhart’s third goal of the series gave Seattle a 3-1 lead at 9:23. Kelowna tied it on goals from F Tyrell Goulbourne (14:56) and F Cody Fowlie (16:20). The Rockets, who held a 59-43 edge in shots, won it when D Myles Bell got his fourth goal of the series at 10:39 of OT.

The very next night the series ended in Kelowna as the Rockets completed their remarkable comeback with a 3-2 victory and, yes, it took overtime.

Wardley gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 9:04 of the second period. The Rockets grabbed a 2-1 lead on two goals from Baillie — his fifth and sixth of the series — at 9:17 of the second period and 13:09 of the third. Lockhart’s fourth goal in seven games tied it at 19:53. That left it for Baillie to complete his hat trick at 5:10 of OT. Baillie finished the series with seven goals and five assists.

The Rockets moved onto the second round where they were swept by the Kamloops Blazers. The last two games of that series needed OT, meaning Kelowna went into extra time in seven of its 11 playoff games that spring.



THURSDAY IN THE WHL:

There was one playoff game last night, and there are six on tap tonight. While the Edmonton Oil Kings completed a sweep of the host Lethbridge Hurricanes last night, four more teams — the Kelowna Rockets, Prince Albert Raiders, Saskatoon Blades and Spokane Chiefs — will face elimination on tonight’s six-game schedule. . . . Here’s a brief look at last night’s game . . .

Eastern Conference

In Lethbridge, F Josh Williams broke a 4-4 tie late in the third period and the EdmontonEdmonton Oil Kings went on to  a 6-4 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . The Oil Kings won the series, 4-0, and now await a second-round opponent. . . . F Justin Hall (1) pulled the Hurricanes into a 4-4 tie at 15:17 of the third period. Williams scored his first goal of the series just 40 seconds later. . . . F Jakub Demek (1) iced it with the empty-netter. . . . Edmonton held a 47-17 edge in shots. . . . F Dylan Guenther scored Edmonton’s first goal, giving him one in each of the four games. . . . The Hurricanes took all four of the game’s minor penalties and surrendered two PP goals. . . . The Hurricanes join Prince George on the outside looking in after the Cougars were swept by the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday night.


JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The Vancouver Giants will be without D Tom Cadieux and F Matthew Edwards when they entertain the Everett Silvertips in Game 4 of their first-round series tonight in Langley, B.C. Each player drew a one-game suspension for indiscretions in Game 3. The Silvertips hold a 2-1 edge in the series. Game 5 is scheduled for Everett on Saturday. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia has an advancer for tonight’s game right here, including a few words about how things are heating up between the two head coaches. . . .

The AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder has named Sean Brown the interim general manager and head coach. He has been operating his hockey development business, Breakout Hockey, but joined the Thunder earlier as assistant GM/assistant coach. The Thunder announced Wednesday that Eric Thurston was out as GM/head coach after four seasons. . . .

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald tweets that “Scott Langer is out after one season” as head coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force. According to Schlossman, “The top candidate to replace him will be SCSU assistant Nick Oliver, a highly regarded young coach who played for the Force.”


Cops


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

——

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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

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.


Dad

WHL makes “commitment” for 24-game schedule; no starting date yet . . . Virus finds Dallas Stars . . . Former WHL coach added to Coyotes’ staff

The WHL’s board of governors chatted on Friday, after which the league announced that it had “made a commitment” to play a 24-game 2021 season.

The news release stated: “The start date for the season will be determined once WHL2final approval has been received from the health authorities in each provincial and state jurisdiction and it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon.”

In other words, there isn’t anything new for a league that has announced starting dates of Oct. 2, Dec. 4 and Jan. 8, only to watch COVID-19 make those goals impossible to reach. The WHL and its fans continue to play the waiting game as they have for almost 10 months now.

As I have written here on numerous occasions, the virus will decide if/when the WHL and other leagues will play, and let’s be honest — short of announcing that it was cancelling the season, what else could the WHL say?

On Dec. 15, when it announced that a Jan. 8 start date wouldn’t be happening, the league said the governors would “meet in January to consider potential start dates.”

That is the meeting that took place on Friday.

When the WHL states that it needs final approval from health officials and that “it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon,” you are free to wonder if someone in the Calgary-based office has some inside information. Again, though, what else would the WHL be expected to say?

But the coronavirus-based numbers in the six jurisdictions in which the WHL operates haven’t exactly provided anyone with warm and fuzzy feelings of late. (See The COVID-19 Chronicles further down in this piece.)

You also wonder if the governors started their meeting yesterday by discussing DallasStarsgoings-on in the NHL where the Dallas Stars shut things down after six players and two staff members tested positive, and the Columbus Blue Jackets held 17 players out of practice.

The Stars were to have opened the NHL’s regular season against the host Florida Panthers on Jan. 14, but that obviously won’t happen. In fact, the Stars also have had to postpone two others games — Jan. 15 at Florida and Jan. 17 at the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars’ first game now is scheduled for Jan. 19 in Tampa Bay.

In the meantime, the Stars players and staff who tested positive are self-isolating and the team’s training facilities are closed.

The Blue Jackets, who are scheduled to open on Jan. 14 against the Predators in Nashville, held 17 of 38 players off the ice “out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols.”

Aaron Portzline, who covers the Blue Jackets for The Athletic, tweeted that the non-practising players were: forwards Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Max Domi, Nick Foligno, Nathan Gerbe, Liam Foudy, Mikhail Grigorenko, Boone Jenner, Mikko Koivu, Eric Robinson, Alexandre Texier, and defencemen Adam Clendening, Vladislav Gavrikov, Seth Jones, David Savard, Andrew Peeke, Michael Del Zotto.

After discussing the NHL situation, maybe the WHL govs talked a bit about NCAA hockey where a number of schools have found out that their hockey teams have been bitten by COVID-19.

Nothing explains all of what has happened better than the National Collegiate NCHCHockey Conference (NCHC). It took eight teams into Omaha in early December and played 38 games. They didn’t call it a bubble; rather, it was a pod. Teams were limited to their hotel and the arena. There was regular testing; there weren’t any positive tests.

However, once that experience was over and the teams returned home, well, the virus licked its lips and went to work.

The U of Omaha has been unable to play four straight games against North Dakota, including two scheduled for this weekend. Mike Kemp, an associate athletic director at Omaha, told The Associated Press: “We got it in spades.”

Elsewhere in the world of NCAA men’s hockey, Lowell’s program is on pause and at least its next three games are off the schedule; Canisius has put things on hold due to protocols and contact tracing; Michigan Tech had to put things on hold after positive tests in its program earlier this week; Northern Michigan has been able to play six games, while having eight postponed or cancelled . . . and on and on it goes.

Where it stops . . . only the virus knows.


F Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers told CFJC-TV’s Chad Klassen that he is looking at going to the USHL.

“I know nothing’s been confirmed yet, but I’ve talked to Fargo Force from down in the States,” Stankoven, 17, said. “I think they’re pretty interested in me, maybe having me come down, but obviously nothing’s set in stone.”

The USHL deadline to add Hockey Canada-released players to team rosters is Sunday. Klassen reported that should Stankoven go that route, he would be required to spend the remainder of the season there.

“As much as I don’t want to head down to the States and play for a whole different team and in a whole different country, things got to be done,” Stankoven said. “It’s part of our development and players need to play hockey. It’s our life. As much as people say it’s not our job, it’s part of our job. It’s our careers.”

You wonder what impact, if any, the WHL’s Friday news release might have on Stankoven’s decision.

Earlier this week, the Dubuque Fighting Saints announced that they were adding F Matt Savoie, 16, of the Winnipeg Ice to their roster. The Fighting Saints played Friday night — they lost 5-2 to the host Youngstown Phantoms — but Savoie has yet to be placed on their roster.


At least two B.C. junior B leagues — the Kootenay International and Vancouver Island leagues — had hoped to return to regular-season play on Jan. 15. However, those hopes were dashed on Thursday when the B.C. government and health officials extended a series of province-wide restrictions until Feb. 5. . . . The junior A BCHL now is talking about starting its regular season on Feb. 8. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted that the BCHL couldn’t get approval for its Penticton hub idea from health officials so that idea is dead.


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

——

CJOB Radio, Winnipeg: As Manitoba announced nine additional COVID-19-related deaths Friday, the province’s top doctor said hundreds of recent cases have been linked to gatherings over the holidays.

Scott Billeck, Winnipeg Sun: From the province: 355 cases and 1,900 contacts from holiday gatherings to date.

CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 336 new cases of COVID-19 and 7 new deaths related to the illness. It’s the highest daily case count since Dec. 6. There are currently 180 COVID-19 patients in the province’s hospitals, including 26 people in intensive care.

Jason Herring, Postmedia: Here are Friday’s COVID-19 Alberta stats: 1,183 new cases (total now 109,652) . . . 24 new deaths (total now 1,241) . . . 851 currently in hospital, 135 in ICU (yesterday: 871 in hospital, 139 in ICU) . . . 13,628 active cases (up from 13,298) . . . 16,765 tests conducted (~7.1% positive).

Justin McElory, CBC Vancouver: 617 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C. on Friday, a big drop from Thursday but part of a small rise since Christmas. . . . 18 new deaths, the highest number since Dec. 23. . . . Hospitalizations and active cases down.

Tacome News Tribune: The Washington state Department of Health reported 4,829 new cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths Friday. . . . Statewide totals from the illness caused by the coronavirus are 268,607 cases and 3,699 deaths. The case total includes 11,160 cases listed as probable. Those numbers are up from 263,778 cases and 3,634 deaths on Thursday.

Daily Hive Portland: The Oregon Health Authority has reported 1,755 new and presumptive COVID-19 cases and seven new deaths. The state has now seen a total of 122,847 COVID-19 cases, and the death toll has risen to 1,575.

Public Health Agency of Canada, Friday, 4 p.m. PT — People tested: 15,420,760 . . . Total cases: 644,348 . . . Active cases: 81,670 . . . Recovered: 545,971 . . . Deaths: 16,707.

CNN, Friday, 3 p.m. PT: 368,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

CNN, Friday, 3 p.m. PT: 21.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.

AFP News Agency, Friday, 8 p.m. PG: US sets new record with nearly 290,000 Covid cases in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins.

——

Curling Alberta has cancelled its 2021 men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships “due to Alberta’s continued state of public health emergency.” All were to have been held in Sylvan Lake, Jan. 25 to Feb. 5. . . .

With the B.C. government and health officials having extended various restrictions, including one restricting adult team sport, through Feb. 5, Curl BC has cancelled the men’s and women’s championships that had been scheduled for Kamloops and the mixed doubles event that was to have been held in Chilliwack. . . .

Holly Rowe, a veteran ESPN sideline reporter, revealed on Friday that she has tested positive, meaning she won’t be working on Monday when Alabama and Ohio State meet in the college football championship game in Miami. . . . Rowe admitted to having some symptoms and not feeling great. . . . She also is a cancer survivor, having battled melanoma. . . .

The Maine Red Claws, a G League men’s basketball team affiliated with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, have opted out of the 2021 season. . . .

Mike Lange, the veteran play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, won’t start the approaching NHL season out of an abundance of caution. He says he’ll be back once he is able to be vaccinated and when he feels it is safe to return. Lange, who will turn 73 in March, missed the 2019 playoffs due to pneumonia. . . .

Kurt Warner, an analyst with the NFL Network, announced Friday night that he has tested positive so won’t be working on any studio shows this weekend. Warner, 49, has been with the NFL Network for 10 years. . . . Also on the NFL broadcast front, NBC’s Mike Tirico will call the play of the Tampa Bay-Washington game from home because of COVID-19 protocols, while CBS-TV’s Tony Romo will provide analysis of the Chicago-New Orleans game from a remote site for the same reason.


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.


JUST NOTES: Former WHL coach Jay Varady, who is the head coach of the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, has been added to the coaching staff of the parent Arizona Coyotes. Varady, 43, spent seven seasons (2003-10) on the coaching staff of the Everett Silvertips. He had been the Roadrunners’ head coach for two seasons. . . . The NHL’s San Jose Sharks has left K-FOX, its play-by-play station since 2020-21, and now will stream its games on the Sharks Audio Network, available on the team’s website and app. . . . Lethbridge has been chosen as the host city for the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier (aka the Canadian men’s curling championship). It is scheduled to run March 4-13, which means the Hurricanes will be out of the Enmax Centre for a couple of weeks in the waning days of the WHL’s 2021-22 season.

%d bloggers like this: