Ice’s Savoie joins USHL team; will Geekie follow his lead? . . . ‘Canes lose assistant to AHL . . . Flockhart, former WHLer, dies at 64


F Matt Savoie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice has joined the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. Savoie, 16, was denied exceptional status by Hockey Canada prior to the 2019-20 season, something that would have allowed him play full-time with the Ice. As it was, the Ice still got him into 22 games — he had seven assists. . . . The Ice selected him with the first overall pick of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. . . . This season, he had three goals and three assists in four games with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders. . . . From a Fighting Saints news release: “Savoie is expected to join the Saints shortly. The team is in action again on Friday and Saturday in Youngstown as they take on the Phantoms.” . . . Savoie will be eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, Savoie, who is from St. Albert, Alta., was in training camp with Dubuque, as was his older brother, Carter, who now is a freshman at Denver U. In fact, Carter was named the NCHC’s rookie of the month for December after putting up 12 points, including seven goals, in 11 games. . . . Dubuque is 5-11-0 and in fifth place in the six-team Eastern Conference. . . .

Interestingly, F Cole Sillinger of the Medicine Hat Tigers had made plans to join the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede to at least start their season. However, it didn’t work out. Here’s what Sillinger told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post:

“I’m a dual citizen so that was a decision I had made to go down there in early October. Long story short, my transfer from Hockey Canada to USA Hockey wasn’t accepted. I couldn’t play any games so I had to come home. I was down there for about 2 ½ weeks just skating and practising, which was still very good. I was able to get into a routine and got to be a part of an actual team again.”

Sillinger, the son of former WHL/NHL F Mike Sillinger, had 53 points, including 22 goals, in 48 games with Medicine Hat last season. He is eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft.

——

Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reported that F Conor Geekie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 bantam draft, “is considering offers from USHL and NAHL teams.” . . . Sawatzky quoted Craig Geekie, a former WHLer and Conor’s father: “I’m not going to say that missing a year is going to hurt him but it will, to me, just set him back in a minor way. (It will help) if he can just play, even if it’s for two or three months.”

——

The USHL’s Lincoln Stars have four players off the Portland Winterhawks’ roster on their list. However, Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ GM and head coach, has told Joshua Critzer that the WHL hasn’t released any of the four players and that won’t happen unless the WHL season is cancelled.

——

Meanwhile, according to a tweet from the Tri-City Americans, D Andrej Golian “has arrived after competing with Slovakia” at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

At the same time, Seattle-based hockey writer Andy Eide tweeted that F Simon Kubicek of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who played for Czech Republic at the WJC, has headed home “for the time being.” . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported that D Marko Stacha, who played for Slovakia at the WJC, “is in Vancouver and the Giants say the plan is for him to stay.” . . . And according to Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, D Inaki Baragano, who played for Switzerland at the WJC, is in Kamloops in anticipation of playing for the Blazers.


Men


With the three major junior leagues not operating at the moment, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet had an interesting item in his first 31 Thoughts posting of 2021:

“The NHL’s biggest priority right now is starting the season, but, at some point, teams are wondering if there will be any changes to the draft. Selecting 18-year-olds is already a crapshoot. Now it’s going to be even harder with so few opportunities to scout them. Hopefully, the CHL finds a way (more for the kids’ sake than anything), but, if not, I wonder if regional combines featuring scrimmages are created a few months down the road to give everyone an opportunity to see and be seen.” . . . The entire column is right here.




Three of the AHL’s 31 teams have opted out of playing this season, which the league hopes to get started on Feb. 5. The Charlotte Checkers, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) won’t participate in a new season. . . . John Greenberg, the Admirals’ president, said: “Right now, we’d be able to have 10 fans at the game watching our teams play, and that’s really no way to run a business.” . . . And here’s Michael Kahn, the Checkers’ owner: “There are several travel, safety and player supply challenges to consider. Those, coupled with the increasing number of new (COVID-19) cases in our area, make it very unlikely that we will be able to host fans at our games in the near future.” . . . As things now stand, the AHL will operate with five divisions of three, four, six, seven and eight teams. The Canadian Division will feature the Belleville Senators, Laval Rocket, Manitoba Moose and Toronto Marlies.


Andrew Doty, an assistant coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, has left to join the coaching staff of the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Doty, 30, was the Hurricanes’ video coach and will fill that same role with the Silver Knights. He had been with the Hurricanes, in one role or another, since the start of the 2014-15 season. In Henderson, Doty will be working with two former WHL coaches — Manny Viveiros is the Silver Knights’ head coach, while Jamie Heward is an assistant coach.



Rob Flockhart, a former WHL player who went on to play 55 NHL games, died on Saturday of an apparent heart attack. He was 64. . . . A native of Sicamous, B.C., he spent three seasons (1973-76) with the Kamloops Chiefs. In his third season, he totalled 51 goals and 47 assists in 72 games. . . . He played 55 NHL games over five seasons, split between the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota North Stars. He retired after playing two games with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks and 14 with that league’s Springfield Indians in 1984-85. . . . The Canucks selected him in the third round of the NHL’s 1976 draft. He also was selected by the Cleveland Crusaders in the sixth round of the WHA’s 1976 draft. . . . Rob was the older brother, by four years, of former NHLer Ron Flockhart.


NotAboutYou

THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News: Quebec gov’t mulling harsher restrictions, including a curfew and extending school closures, amid soaring COVID-19 cases.

Public Health Agency of Canada, Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT: Canada has 78,849 active cases, with 523,564 recoveries. There have been 16,233 deaths.

CNN, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. PT: 356,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

CNN, Tuesday, 5:20 p.m. PT: 357,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

——

BC Hockey announced Tuesday that it has cancelled the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup and 2021 Coy Cup events. . . . The Cyclone Taylor Cup is the junior B provincial championship that features three league champions and a host team. . . . The Coy Cup is the province’s senior men’s AA championship. . . . There is a news release right here. . . .

The Cleveland Browns will be without three coaches, including head coach Kevin Stefanski, and at least two players when they face the host Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game on Sunday. . . . Pro Bowl G Joel Bitonio and WR KhaDarel Hodge tested positive, as did defensive backs coach Jeff Howard and tight ends coach Drew Petzing. . . . It meant that the Brown were forced to shut down their facility on Tuesday for the fifth time in 10 days. . . . Cleveland was without six starters and three coaches due to COVID-19 protocols when it beat the Steelers on Sunday.

There are reports that the Ohio State Buckeyes football team is dealing with COVID-19 issues but as of Tuesday evening it didn’t appear that the NCAA championship game was in jeopardy. The Buckeyes are to meet the Alabama Crimson Tide in Miami on Monday. . . .

The 2021 Canadian National Taekwon-Do championships have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Vernon, B.C., April 24 and 25. . . .

Bentley U, which is located in Waltham, Mass., has paused its hockey program because of positive tests within the program. All team activities have been halted until further notice. . . . Bentley plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association.


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: Of the sporting events I have watched on TV over the past few months, none missed fans as much as the IIHF’s World Junior Championship. Not having flag-waving, hyped-up fans in attendance really cooled off that event. . . . I didn’t watch a lot of the WJC, but Tuesday night’s championship game was a terrific advertisement for the best that hockey has to offer. . . . If you missed it, there are rumours that the NBA will offer up a couple of expansion franchises and use the fees to help overcome losses caused by the pandemic. The whispers have Louisville and Seattle in line, with the price tag somewhere around US$2.5 billion per franchise.


Blizzard

The WHL, Part 5: There was tragedy, lots of movement and marshmallow punches . . .

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.

DougSauter

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.”

BryanMaxwell

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.

bob cornell brandon wheat kings mvc
BOB CORNELL (Photo: Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame)

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.

Broncos
When the Swift Current Broncos’ bus crashed on Dec. 30, 1986, the hockey world lost Chris Mantyka (left), Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger and Brent Ruff. (Photo: Swift Current Broncos)

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.

EdChynoweth3
ED CHYNOWETH

“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.

BradHornung
BRAD HORNUNG (Photo: University of Regina)

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.

EdStaniowski

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.

GerryJames

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.

JoeCelentano
JOE CELENTANO

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.

TimSpeltz
TIM SPELTZ

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.”

TimTisdale

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.

Kelly-McCrimmon
KELLY McCRIMMON (Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings)

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.”

JackShupe

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.”

DennisBeyak
DENNIS BEYAK

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.

GerryJohansson
GERRY JOHANSSON

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.

LorneFrey
LORNE FREY

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.

—30—

WHL not playing games, but some players are . . . Two football bowl games gone . . . Hobbs decides to go back home

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, addressed some media folks in a virtual whlgathering 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:



Grandma


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.


Nessman


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

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.” . . .

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. . . .

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:

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: 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.


Leg

Nicknames: To change, or not to change, that is the question . . . Top NASCAR driver tests positive . . . Hockey Canada cancels U-17 WHC

In a recent editorial, the Washington Post called for Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the NFL team’s nickname.

Asked by USA Today in 2013 if he would change the name, Snyder replied: “NEVER — you can use caps.”

But now, with Black Lives Matter front and centre, the pressure is on again.

From The Post’s View:

“Already, institutions across the board have been forced to take stock of how their practices and policies and — yes — even the names and symbols of their products have contributed to racial misunderstanding and prejudice. Quaker Oats announced it was getting rid of Aunt Jemima from its syrup and pancake mixes, and Uncle Ben and Mrs. Butterworth seem sure to follow. . . . Events DC, which manages RFK Stadium in Washington, removed a statue of George Preston Marshall, who as owner of the local football team refused to allow black players for as long as he possibly could. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently admitted to — and apologized for — not listening to players about systemic racism and police brutality against African Americans. He also must know it is wrong for a team to have a name that the dictionary defines as a racial slur and that no one would ever use to address a person who is a Native American.

“This should be an easy call. Mr. Snyder — or, if Mr. Snyder refuses to back down from his declaration of ‘NEVER,’ the NFL — should take advantage of this singular moment in history to get on the right side of history. Change the name. NOW.”

It seems that a name change is imminent, what with various sponsors and other businesses with ties to the NFL team now applying pressure.

FedEx, which agreed to a naming rights deal for the stadium in which the team plays, has asked Snyder to change the name. Frederick W. Smith, FedEx’s CEO and chairman, is a minority owner of the team.

Nike has taken the team’s merchandise from its online store, but has yet to offer an explanation.

Officials with Pepsi and Bank of America also have indicated that they want to see a name change.

“It’s not hard to change the name,” Tony Dungy, who is well-respected in NFL circles, told William C. Rhoden of The Undefeated.

Meanwhile, you can add Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream to the list of name-changers, too, because management told Reuters the other day that it will change the brand name of its Eskimo Pie ice cream stick.

Yes, the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos are facing pressure — again — to come up with a new nickname.

Simon Fraser University, which is located in Burnaby, almost surely will be changing its nickname — Clan — at some point in the coming months after 97 per cent of student-athletes voted to get rid of it. The athletes, it seems, are tired of being asked about the nickname, especially when they journey south to play against U.S. schools.

And the Cleveland Indians say they are ready to discuss a change. They issued a release on Friday that read, in part: “We are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

——

Here’s Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, on the nickname situation involving the Washington NFLers: “It’s been theorized that a fan boycott might convince Snyder to change the team’s name. But judging from attendance at FedEx Field the last few years, how could anybody tell if there was a boycott?”

——

With all of that, allow me to place this on the table . . .

There are four WHL teams with nicknames and logos that refer in one way or another to Native American or Canadian First Nations peoples — the Moose Jaw Warriors, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds and Spokane Chiefs.

In November 2014, the Prince Albert Raiders received some heat when they unveiled a new mascot — Boston Raider — that was sponsored by a pizza joint. But, as Adam Proteau wrote in The Hockey News, “The new mascot’s appearance does not sit well with a number of people who believe it stereotypes those of Middle Eastern heritage.”

The mascot, which also paid tribute to the Raiders’ original logo, quickly and quietly disappeared, with the club apologizing to anyone who may have been been offended.

The Raiders really didn’t mean anything with what they felt was a simple marketing move.

The WHL franchises in Moose Jaw, Portland, Seattle and Spokane aren’t trying to be offensive with their nicknames, either.

But with all that’s going on right now, should they be changing their nicknames to, as the Washington Post editorial read, “get on the right side of history,” or is it OK to maintain the status quo?

Maybe the WHL and one, two three or all of those franchises should take action now and, in doing so, get in front of things . . . instead of having to react at a later date.

——


Prescrip


Jimmie Johnson, with seven NASCAR titles under his belt, has tested positive and will miss this weekend’s races at Indy. He will have to have two negative tests within a 24-hour period before being allowed to return to racing. . . . Going into this weekend, Johnson had made 663 consecutive starts. In fact, he has never missed a start in his career. . . . According to Jeff Gluck, who covers NASCAR like a blanket for The Athletic, Johnson “got tested (Friday) after learning wife Chani tested positive.” . . . Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 in Sunday’s Brickyard 400. . . .

Jeremy Rutherford and Scott Burnside of The Athletic reported Friday evening that, according to sources, the NHL’s St. Louis Blues have cancelled practices at their facility because of “multiple” positive tests. . . . The Blues skated on Thursday at the facility, but not on Friday. . . .

Hockey Canada has cancelled the 2020 World U-17 Hockey Challenge that was to have been played in Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I., from Oct. 31 through Nov. 7. . . . The 2021 event will be held in those communities. . . . Hockey Canada also said that its remaining 2020 schedule remains unchanged, including the National Women’s U-18 Championship, Nov. 2-8, in Dawson Creek, B.C.; the Para Hockey Cup, Dec. 6-12, in Bridgewater, N.S.; the World Junior A Challenge, Dec. 13-20, in Cornwall, Ont.; and the 2021 World Junior Championship, Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer. . . .


MLB and the MLBPA announced Friday that positive tests total 31 players and seven staff members with teams having opened workouts to prepare for a July 23 opening day. . . . Identities of those testing positive aren’t being released, although OF Delino DeShields Jr. of the Cleveland Indians gave the team permission to reveal that he tested positive. . . . The Minnesota Twins said they have had four players test positive, including C Willians Astudillo, P Edwar Colina and INF Nick Gordon. The identity of the fourth player wasn’t released. . . .

The 2020 All-Star Game that was to have been played at Dodgers Stadium has been cancelled. The game had been scheduled for July 14. . . . This will be the first year since 1945 that an all-star game hasn’t been played. . . . The 2021 game is scheduled for Atlanta, and the 2022 game now is to be played in Los Angeles.


Psychic


“As organized sports attempt to return during the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes, coaches, spectators and bystanders will all be expected to sign liability waivers,” writes Michael McCann of Sportico. “Everyone associated with the games will have to accept, in so many words, that he or she (1) assumes the risk of contracting COVID-19 through their participation and (2) agrees that the organizer—be it a league, team, venue, college or even high school—would not be liable for any COVID-19 related harms.

“This is not just true of players, coaches and referees. According to The Athletic, the NFL is weighing the possibility of mandating that ticket-holders sign COVID-19 waivers as a condition of stadium entry.”

McCann is an attorney and law professor who writes on sports and law. In this piece right here, he writes on the potential legality of these waivers in the U.S.



Had to go to a small grocery store on Friday afternoon. Might have been two dozen people in it. I saw one mask. I was wearing it. . . . Come on people. Be better. . . .

If you’re wondering what we’re dealing with here, go to Twitter and check out the thread accompanying the tweet below . . .


Cat

Winterhawks sale would be ninth since 2007 . . . WHL GM tells Ewen ‘lineup’ of shoppers is expected . . . What’s the price tag?

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 Portlandchanged 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.

Here’s Ewen:

“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.”

Ewen’s complete piece is right here.

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.


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.”


Sheep

NBA season suspended . . . NHL pondering immediate future . . . Maybe all leagues should shut down?


The NBA has indefinitely suspended its season after a player with the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus.

With a number of NBA teams sharing facilities with NHL teams, it is hard to see how the NHL season will be allowed to continue. In fact, the NHL said Wednesday night that it “is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options.”

The NHL said it expects “to have a further update (Thursday).”

With the NBA having suspended its season and if the NHL follows suit, you have to wonder what the WHL will do.

Maybe it’s time for all sports leagues to suspend operations indefinitely, just to cut down on large gatherings, and see where all of this goes.

We obviously have to do something, because this has to change before we are forced to go through many more days like Wednesday when nothing got touched more than refresh buttons.

And every time you hit refresh so much had changed.


If the WHL season continues, it could end up with an entire first-round playoff series being played without any fans in attendance.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced Wednesday morning that public gatherings of more than 250 people are being banned through the end of March as part of the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds then let it be known that they would complete the home portions of their regular-season schedules by playing in empty arenas.

The Silvertips are second in the Western Conference, one point behind the Portland Winterhawks. Each team has five games remaining.

The Thunderbirds are destined to finish in eighth spot and will meet the first-place finisher in the opening round of the playoffs.

So if Everett was to get into that top spot and if the season continues . . .

If, if, if . . .

——

The first WHL game to be played in an arena without fans in attendance is scheduled for Saturday in Kent, Wash., with the host Seattle Thunderbirds meeting the Vancouver Giants.

The Thunderbirds also are scheduled to play at home against the Spokane Chiefs on March 17. That game, too, will be played without fans.

There had been speculation on Tuesday night in Spokane, as the Chiefs were beating the Kamloops Blazers, 3-0, that the March 17 game would be moved to Wenatchee, Wash.

Seattle’s final home game of the regular season, against the Winterhawks, is scheduled for March 21. Chances are that game, too, will be played without fans but a firm determination has yet to be announced.

The Silvertips’ final home game, against the Victoria Royals on March 20, will be closed to the general public.

The Silvertips will finish first or second in the Western Conference, so will open the playoffs with home games on March 27 and 28. Should that happen, and with no end to this crisis in sight, it would seem that those games would be closed to the public.

——

Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to visit the Giants at the Langley Events Centre on Friday. The Giants said they “will continue to welcome fans” to the LEC, but also said they are “continually monitoring the COVID-19 situation.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been 46 positive tests in B.C., almost all of them on the Lower Mainland. B.C. announced seven new cases on Wednesday, including the first on Vancouver Island.

In Alberta, the total of positives tests reached 19 on Wednesday — 11 in the Calgary Zone, seven in the Edmonton Zone and one in the Central Zone. All cases to date have been travel-related.


The IIHF men’s world U-18 championship is scheduled to be held in Plymouth, Mich., from April 16-26. But it’s hard to see that tournament being held after U.S. President Trump announced Wednesday night that some travel from Europe is being prohibited.


If the NHL season continues . . .

The San Jose Sharks will play their next three homes games without any fans in the SAP Center. The Montreal Canadiens are to play there on March 19, with the Boston Bruins there two days later and the Arizona Coyotes on March 29. . . . The Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, also plays in the SAP Center and will play home games on March 17 and 22 without fans in attendance. . . .

In Ohio, the Columbus Blue Jackets will play their final five home games without fans. The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to play in Columbus tonight (Thursday).


Daniele Rugani, a defender with the Italian soccer team Juventus, has tested positive for coronavirus, the team announced Wednesday. Rugani, 25, now is in isolation and all who have been in contact with him are being checked. . . . Play in the Italian Serie A had been suspended with the country all but shut down. . . .

The world figure skating championships that were to have been held in Montreal, from March 18 through March 22, were cancelled on Wednesday. . . .

The NCAA announced that March Madness, the annual men’s basketball championship tournament, will be played, but that fans won’t be allowed to attend any of the games. The NCAA said that only players, essential staff and family members will be allowed in the buildings. . . . NCAA president Mark Emmert also said that the Final Four is likely to be moved from the 71,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to a smaller venue. It is scheduled for April 4 and April 6. . . .

The Big Ten, Big 12, American, ACC and Pac-12 announced that their men’s basketball tournaments, all of which start on Thursday, will be closed to fans. . . .

The U of Michigan has cancelled its annual spring football game that was scheduled for April 18 in Ann Arbor. The school also cancelled all events scheduled for any of its athletic facilities through April 21. . . . Ohio State cancelled its spring football game that was to have been played on April 11, while announcing that attendance at any intercollegiate events played host to by the school will be limited. . . .

USA Hockey has cancelled its national championships — high school, youth, girls, adult and sled — and its Disabled Hockey Festival. . . . The national tournaments were to being March 26 in various locations; the Festival was to be held in Pittsburgh (March 26-29, April 2-5).


If you are from Regina, this is big, big, big . . .


The BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors have signed Simon Ferguson to a two-year contract as head coach. Ferguson took over as interim head coach on Jan. 1 after the firing of Brandon West. . . . With Ferguson in control, the Warriors went 9-10-2 and earned a playoff berth. . . . They lost a first-round series to the Penticton Vees. . . .

The junior B Creston Valley Thunder Cats have signed Nick Redding, their general manager and head coach, to a three-year contract. Redding, who is from Spokane, just completed his second season with Creston. . . . Before joining the Thunder Cats, he had been the hockey operations co-ordinator with the Seattle Thunderbirds.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

——

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


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


——

Some of Tuesday’s other developments . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


WHL: Weekend games to proceed ‘at this time’ . . . Baseball’s WCL lands in Nanaimo for 2021

The WHL said Thursday afternoon that “at this time” weekend games scheduled for the Pacific Northwest will proceed.

As of early Thursday evening, 70 people in Washington state had been diagnosed with whlCOVID-19. That includes 11 people who have died. Fifty-one of those cases, and 10 of the deaths, have occurred in King County whose county seat is Seattle.

The Everett Silvertips are to play host to the Tri-City Americans tonight (Friday) and the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Silvertips are to visit the Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash.

The Silvertips are second in the U.S. Division, one point behind the Portland Winterhawks. The Thunderbirds, who are to visit the Kelowna Rockets tonight, are in possession of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.

On Thursday, Cassie Franklin, the mayor of Everett, took part in a news conference that also involved the Snohomish Health District. Among the recommendations announced was to avoid “non-essential gatherings/large groups of 50+ people and postponing/cancelling events if possible.”

Later, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was quoted in a statement as saying the league, the Silvertips and Thunderbirds “are closely monitoring the public health developments” in the Pacific Northwest.”

He added that “at this time,” weekend games in Everett and Kent, Wash., the home of the Thunderbirds, will go ahead.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the immediate health risk to the United States public is low,” Robison said in the statement. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will adopt additional health and safety measures as recommended by local health authorities.”

The Seattle Times has a look right here at other sporting events scheduled for that area, including Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, who are planning to go ahead with a Saturday night home game.

——

Meanwhile, officials in B.C. announced eight new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, all on the Lower Mainland, bringing the province’s total positives to 21. That includes four patients who have recovered.

The Vancouver Giants, who play out of the Langley Events Centre, are next scheduled to play at home on March 13 against Seattle. The Giants will visit the Thunderbirds on March 14, then play host to the Prince George Cougars on March 15.



ICYMI, baseball’s West Coast League will have a franchise in Nanaimo, B.C., beginning with the 2021 season. The team, which doesn’t yet have a name, will be the WCL’s 13th team and will be owned by the group that operates the Victoria HarbourCats. That group includes former Prince George Citizen sports editor Jim Swanson, who is the managing partner and will oversee operations with both franchises. . . . The wood-bat league features teams in B.C., Washington and Oregon. . . . There is a news release on Thursday’s announcement right here.



If the Brandon Wheat Kings finish third or fourth in the WHL’s East Division, they will get bumped from Westoba Place for the first round and will play their home games in Virden. . . . The Wheat Kings go into weekend play in second place in the East Division, five points ahead of the Winnipeg Ice and seven up on the Saskatoon Blades.


Scattershooting on a Thursday night while watching Ovie shoot for 700 . . .

Scattershooting

A lot of what follows was to have been up here earlier in the week, but I got caught up in the Trevor Weisgerber story that you may have read here. If you haven’t seen it, just scroll down a bit and ready about the hockey coach who is fresh off a kidney transplant . . . Apologies, then, if some of what follows is a touch dated . . .


Followers of the WHL should be looking to the Pacific Northwest and thanking the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds for having breathed some life into the 2019-20 season.

Considering that their home arenas are located a few slapshots apart — of course, with SeattleSeattle-area traffic that can turn into a long drive in terms of time — we should expect this to be a healthy rivalry.

Now, however, I think it’s fair to say that this is the WHL’s top rivalry.

On Saturday night, the Silvertips hung a 5-2 beating on the host Thunderbirds, who actually play in Kent, Wash.

There was some nastiness, of course, a lot of it stemming from a second-period incident in which Everett F Justyn Gurney delivered an unpenalized shoulder to the head of Seattle D Cade McNelly. Less than 24 hours later, the WHL suspended Gurney for two games.

It was after the game when things really heated up.

Dennis Williams, the Silvertips’ head coach, told Josh Horton of the Everett Herald: “I Everettdon’t know what (Seattle’s) mindset is. Do they not want to play hockey? The game of hockey is skilled. It’s making plays, it’s going up the ice. From the midway to the second on, we knew we had them beat.”

Williams also told Horton that he lifted No. 1 G Dustin Wolf in the third period because “I just don’t trust them.”

On Sunday afternoon, Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge responded, telling Andy Eide of ESPN radio in Seattle: “Their comments post-game got me riled up. We always are portrayed as the big bad Thunderbirds. We do play hard and I’m not apologizing for that nor will I ever. But I think them yelling down at us from their high horse has to stop.”

La Forge, who obviously had done some research, also told Eide: “I think the numbers speak for themselves. They’ve been suspended 52 games in the last three seasons, we’ve been suspended 40. Twenty-six of their (game) suspensions have been against us and only eight of our game suspensions have been against them. That tells me that we’re playing hard, I’m not going to deny that. But, we’re trying to play within the rules as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, Thom Beuning, the veteran play-by-play voice of the Thunderbirds, was tweeting:

The Silvertips and Thunderbirds are scheduled to face each other three more times this season, starting tonight (Friday) in Everett. Happy Valentine’s Day!

And the U.S. Division-leading Portland Winterhawks are sitting back, enjoying every second of this, and saying: “Have at ’er boys!”

(Eide’s complete story, with lots of great quotes from La Forge, who used to work for the Silvertips, is right here.)


A couple of days later, Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, did his best to stimulate the rivalry not only between his team and the Kelowna Rockets, but also Kamloops1between the cities. . . . Gaglardi didn’t just throw some fuel on the fire; he opened the gas bowser and left it running. . . . When Gaglardi chatted with Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, the Blazers (32-16-4), who had lost five in a row (0-4-1), were leading the B.C. Division, with the Rockets (23-25-3) 19 points back in fourth spot. . . . In the fall of 2018, you may recall, the WHL’s board of governors heard bids from Kamloops, Kelowna and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, each of whom wanted to play host to the 2020 Memorial Cup. . . . In the end, the governors chose the Rockets whose big boss, Bruce Hamilton, is the chairman of that board of governors. . . . “I think you know how I feel,” Gaglardi told Hastings. “Yeah, it was our turn. It should have been ours. It was the wrong thing. The league did the wrong thing. . . . Yeah, I’m sour, for sure. I’m disappointed.” . . . Hastings’ complete story is right here. . . . The Hurricanes (33-12-7), meanwhile, are second in the Central Division, six points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings (35-8-9).


Annoying


There is ample speculation that quarterback Tom Brady won’t be returning to the New England Patriots. However, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel doesn’t see him landing with the Buccaneers. Bianchi explained: “Not to be mean, but putting Tom Brady on the Bucs would be like putting the Mona Lisa in Room 217 of the Red Roof Inn.”


The San Francisco Giants have a manager (Gabe Kapler) and 13 coaches, none of whom chews tobacco. As Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The new day in baseball has been coming for a long time now, and with the Giants, it’s here. In the old days, not that long ago, everybody chewed and dipped, and drank. Including the batboy.” . . . If you aren’t aware, using smokeless tobacco is against MLB’s rules, but it’s against the law like speeding and not using turn signals are against the law. . . . “The Giants, though, might have the first tabacky-free MLB coaching staff in history. That’s a guess,” Ostler adds.


A recent gem from the readerboard at the El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas: “Did anyone catch the football game at the J-Lo and Shakira concert?”



Here’s Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times after an incident during a college basketball game: “Houston guard DeJon Jarreau bit Cincinnati’s Keith Williams on the calf during a loose-ball scrum, so he was ejected from the game. Or more precisely, extracted.”

——

One more from Perry: “Who says there’s too much time between the NFL’s conference-championship games and the Super Bowl? Pamela Anderson and Jon Peters managed to get married — and separated — in that two-week span this year.”


A tip of the fedora to the Spokane Chiefs for honouring the Spokane Jets, who won the 1970 Allan Cup, a trophy that once was among the most famous in all of hockey. . . . Dan Thompson wrote a terrific story about the Jets and some of the men who returned to Spokane for Sunday’s game, and it’s all right here, from the pages of the Spokesman-Review.


Baseball


After a Saturday hockey game in which the Calgary Flames physically abused F Elias Pettersson of the host Vancouver Canucks, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out that the NHL has allowed its best players to be subjected to this kind of treatment for years and years. Hey, remember when Bobby Hull complained of it? . . . Campbell has more right here. . . . Could it be that the NHL is starting to realize that cross-checking is a problem? Maybe if the NHL does something about that, the WHL will, too.


Former Swift Current Broncos F Sheldon Kennedy has been named to the Order of Hockey In Canada, as well he should have been. He, along with Ken Dryden and Dr. Charles Tator, will be saluted at the Hockey Canada Foundation annual affair in Niagara Falls in June. . . . The WHL posted a story on its website announcing the honour and pointing out that Kennedy roller-bladed “across Canada to raise awareness and funds for sexual assault victims. Kennedy devoted his post-hockey career to child-abuse prevention and education.” . . . Unfortunately, the WHL didn’t bother to explain why Kennedy headed down this career path after bringing an end to his professional hockey career. It was, of course, because he — along with a number of teammates — was sexually abused on hundreds of occasions by Graham James, who then was the Broncos’ general manager and head coach. . . . I have written it before and here it is again: It is long past time for the WHL to unveil an award in Kennedy’s honour, one that should go to anyone who has been involved with the WHL at any level and has gone on to do outstanding work outside the walls of the league.



According to Forbes Magazine, the New York Knicks, who are one of the NBA’s poorest-run operations, carry the highest valuation of the Association’s 30 teams, at $4.6 billion. . . . Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports reacting to that: “The Knicks should serve as a true inspiration to anyone who dares to dream of being super rich despite sucking at pretty much everything. That’s the real American Dream.”


JUST NOTES: Congrats to Brent Kisio, who became the winningest head coach in the history of the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday night, when he put up victory No. 189. That put him one ahead of Bryan Maxwell. It’s believed that Kisio also has more friends among the zebras than Maxie did. . . . The Everett Silvertips have signed head coach Dennis Williams to a two-year contract extension. A tip of the fedora to Everett GM Garry Davidson for announcing the length of the extension — through the 2022-23 season. The 40-year-old Williams is in his third season with the Silvertips. His regular-season record is a rather solid 127-48-14, and he is 19-13 in the playoffs. . . . Earlier in the week, the Winnipeg Ice signed head coach James Patrick to a three-year extension. Patrick is in his third season with the Ice, which will make the playoffs this go-round for the first time on Patrick’s watch. . . .

Hey, Sportsnet, I think it’s time to suggest to your hockey analysts — hello there Garry Galley; hi Louie DeBrusk — that they stop talking when the play resumes. There’s a time for analysis/nattering and a time for play-by-play; when the puck is in the area of a goal, it’s play-by-play time. And we won’t even get into the fact that Galley talks far too much. . . . Nick Taylor, who calls Abbotsford, B.C., home, went wire-to-wire in winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the weekend, even starting down Phil Mickelson in the final round on Sunday. Here’s hoping that Taylor’s accomplishment isn’t forgotten by all of the year-end award voters come the closing weeks of 2020. . . .

The best part of a Major League Baseball game is the strategy involved; it’s why you don’t have to be a fan of one of the two teams involved in a game to enjoy it. That’s why I absolutely despise the rule announced this week involving a relief pitcher having to face at least three batters if he doesn’t end an inning. It also could spell the end to the left-handed specialist. . . . And a big happy birthday to Brad Hornung, a friend who turned 51 on Thursday.


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

Scattershooting

Not in the Christmas spirit? Watch this . . .


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

——

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


Mozart


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

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


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

——

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


Puppy


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

——

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

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

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



SocialMedia


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