The WHL’s 2021-22 season won’t include any interlocking play between Eastern and Western conferences, which means, unfortunately, that fans in U.S. and B.C. division centres won’t get to see F Connor Bedard, the most-publicized prospect to enter the league in some time, live and in person. . . . Bedard is the first player to receive exceptional status in order to allow him to claim a full-time WHL roster spot as a 15-year-old. Bedard, who will turn 16 on July 17, has 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games for the Pats in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. He left the Pats mid-season in order to play for Canada at the IIHF U18 World championship in Texas, where he had seven goals and seven assists in 14 games. . . . Bedard is eligible for the NHL’s 2023 draft. . . . It also means that those same U.S. and B.C. division fans won’t get to see F Matthew Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice. He was denied exceptional status prior to the 2018-19 season, but still got into 22 games and earned seven assists. He spent 2020-21 with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, putting up 21 goals and 17 assists in 34 games. . . . Savoie is eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . .
The WHL didn’t offer a reason for dumping inter-conference play in the news release it issued on Tuesday following the conclusion of its annual general meeting. However, I think we can assume that it’s all about trying to save money after not seeing any playoff revenue for two seasons now. . . . The WHL also announced that it plans to open its regular season on Oct. 1, with each team playing a 68-game schedule within its own conference. . . . The WHL added that “with the anticipated lifting of health restrictions in all jurisdictions” it expects to play its games without attendance restrictions. . . . If all goes according to plan, the regular season will end on April 3. . . . That would mean the WHL playoffs would start on April 8. Keep in mind that because of the pandemic the WHL hasn’t featured a playoff game since May 13, 2019, when the host Prince Albert Raiders won the championship with a 3-2 OT victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The WHL has changed its playoff format, going back to a conference format that last was used in the spring of 2014. The two division winners will be seeded first and second, with the next six teams slotted three through eight. The first round will have one vs. eight, two vs. seven, etc., with teams reseeded by points after each round. . . . The WHL’s complete news release is right here.
With the Vegas Golden Knights having opened one Stanley Cup semifinal on Monday night with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, it seems the rest of the hockey world is learning what WHL fans have known for a long, long time. Yes, Kelly McCrimmon, the Golden Knights’ general manager, knows what he is doing.
Here’s columnist Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, writing about the Golden Knights prior to the start of the series:
“Just four years into their history, the stunning story of their rookie season is kind of yesterday’s news. Today, they are merely one of the best teams in the NHL. Owned by Bill Foley. The fans are of another level. The presidential work and so much other work done by George McPhee. The GM, McCrimmon, is the most effective in the NHL. Unafraid of making enormous trades. Unafraid of giant-sized signings. Unafraid of drafting players and then sending them packing in exchange for tangible assets. Unafraid of doing what others may think about, but rarely act upon.”
Doesn’t that pretty much describe the way McCrimmon operated when he owned the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings?
Simmons’ complete piece is right here.
If you are in the market for something to read, may I suggest you take a gander at Call Me Indian, a book that was published last month and tells the story of Fred Sasakamoose. What’s it all about? Well, the subtitle pretty much tells it all — From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treat Indigenous Player. . . . To think that Sasakamoose went from playing hockey and trying just to survive at a residential school in northern Saskatchewan to the lineup of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in a few short years almost beggars belief. But he did just that, and a whole lot more. . . . Considering all that is happening these days involving residential schools and their history, both here and in the U.S., this really is a timely read. . . . Sasakamoose, who died of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 so didn’t live to see his book published, doesn’t go easy on himself either. He bares his heart and soul, including his issues with alcohol and parenting. In fact, if there is a hero in this book it isn’t Sasakamoose, rather it’s his long-suffering wife Loretta with whom he had nine children. . . . Give this book a try; I guarantee it’ll stay with you for a long time after you’re finished with it.
ICYMI, the CFL’s board of governors voted Monday to have the league’s nine teams begin a 14-game regular season on Aug. 5. The season is to begin with a rematch of the last Grey Cup game — the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 33-12, in Calgary on Nov. 24, 2019. . . . The CFL hasn’t played a game since then because of the pandemic. . . . The 2021 season is to open with that rematch being played in Winnipeg. . . . The 2021 Grey Cup game is to be played in Hamilton on Dec. 12. . . . Training camps are to open on July 10, with players needing to report and go through a quarantine process that will be decided in conjunction with local health officials. . . . There won’t be any exhibition games. . . . Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun takes a look at the CFL situation right here. . . . BTW, the Labour Day Classic in Regina is scheduled for Sept. 5, with the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Sept. 11. In other words, all is almost right with the world.
Abbotsford Aces? Fraser Valley Falcons? The Vancouver Canucks are asking hockey fans in the Fraser Valley what they should name the AHL franchise that is to begin play in Abbotsford in the fall. The Canucks are moving their AHL affiliate, formerly the Utica Comets, to Abbotsford. . . . Daniel Wagner of vancouverisawesome.com has more right here.
Eric Bélanger has signed on as the first head coach in the history of the Trois-Rivières Lions, an expansion ECHL franchise that will be affiliated with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. . . . Bélanger, 43, spent the previous two seasons as the head coach of the midget AAA Chevaliers de Lévis. . . . His playing career included 820 NHL regular-season games split between the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. . . . In 2008-09, he was teammates with Marc-André Bergeron with the Minnesota Wild. Bergeron now is the Lions’ general manager.
The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, a 20-team junior B league, said Monday that it will open its 2021-22 season on Oct. 1 and wrap things up on Feb. 20. . . . “All 20 of the KIJHL’s member clubs will complete a 42-game regular season schedule that includes eight games against divisional opponents and two games each against teams in the opposing division within the same conference,” the league said in a news release. . . . That means that the Spokane Braves will be back after not operating in 2020-21 due to the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential traffic. . . . The KIJHL news release is right here.
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St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
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Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
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JUST NOTES: Trevor Redden, the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders for the past four seasons, is leaving the position, citing wanting to prioritize “a different work-life balance, and being able to spend more time with family and friends.” He made the announcement via social media on Tuesday. Redden said that he will be remaining in Prince Albert where he works with Pattison Media Ltd. . . . Former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Mike Stothers has joined the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks as an assistant coach. He spent the previous five seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Stothers, 59, was the Warriors’ head coach for three seasons (2011-14). . . .
The junior B Creston Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Bill Rotheisler, their general manager and head coach, to a one-year deal through 2021-22. Rotheisler is preparing for his second season in Creston, although his first season amounted to only three games because of the pandemic. If you aren’t familiar with Rotheisler’s story, including his battle with lymphatic cancer, Google is your friend. . . . Serge Lajoie, who spent one season (2018-19) as head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has been named head coach of Alberta’s male U16 team. Lajoie also is the head coach of OHA Edmonton’s U18 prep team.