The BCHL announced on Monday that it will operate as an independent organization — back in the day, it would have been referred to as an “outlaw” league — as of June 1, a decision reached after “owners, governors, executives, and committees thoroughly explored all options but were unable to establish meaningful discourse with the governing leadership of Hockey Canada.” . . . The announcement was hardly unexpected after the 18-team BCHL chose to leave the Canadian Junior Hockey League in April 2021. One result of that move is that BCHL teams no longer compete for the Centennial Cup. . . . The BCHL news release explaining the decision to leave Hockey Canada is right here. . . . You can bet that this will shake up junior hockey in Canada as the BCHL now will be recruiting junior-aged players from across North America and Europe. . . . You also have to wonder if this isn’t the first step towards a super junior A league, with the BCHL, over the next few seasons, shedding a team or three and a handful of other Western Canadian teams coming on board.
For more on the BCHL announcement, check out this interview right here as Brian Wiebe of the BCHL Network chats with Steven Cocker, the BCHL’s commissioner. There are a lot of questions still to be answered, but there are some answers here.
WHL PLAYOFF NOTES:
A couple of things worth watching as the Seattle Thunderbirds and host Kamloops Blazers prepare for Game 3 of the Western Conference final tonight. . . . The No. 1 Thunderbirds hold a 2-0 lead on the No. 2 Blazers, who will be the Memorial Cup’s host team. . . .
The Blazers lost D Logan Bairos during Saturday’s first game after he absorbed a hit from Seattle F Jared Davidson. Bairos didn’t play in Game 2, with D Ryan Michael inserted into the lineup. But Michael left late in the first period after being hit by Seattle F Reid Schaefer. . . . Shaun Clouston, the Blazers’ general manager and head coach, told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week that they asked for supplemental discipline on Davidson prior to Game 2, but didn’t receive it. And Clouston said after Sunday’s game that they were thinking about requesting supplemental discipline on Schaefer for the hit on Michael. . . . “I thought both hits were dangerous hits,” Clouston told Hastings. “I thought the first one there was some contact to the head and the second one tonight, the hit on Mikey, was right on the numbers.” . . .
Meanwhile, Darren Steinke, who blogs at Stanks’ Sermon, reported after Sunday’s game that Seattle F Jordan Gustafson may have gotten injured as he and his teammates celebrated D Jeremy Hanzel’s OT goal. Steinke wrote: “The only down part for Seattle on the winning goal was it appeared Thunderbirds standout centre Jordan Gustafson, who turned 19-years-old in January, injured himself during the winning goal celebration. He was the first Thunderbirds player to leave the ice seeking out the team’s trainer.” . . .
A note from Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow) after Seattle’s 4-3 OT victory over the visiting Blazers on Sunday: “Seattle starts the great day in Seattle hockey coming back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits. Jeremy Hanzel — who was 2nd in GWGs for defenders this season — earns first of postseason 6-and-a-half into overtime. Improves to +20 for playoffs and +90 combined.” . . .
A couple of notes from the Thunderbirds: Their Sunday victory improved their record in these playoffs to 10-0 and that’s a franchise record. In 2017, the Thunderbirds had opened with nine victories. . . . F Jared Davidson goes into tonight’s game in Kamloops with 20 career playoff goals. He is tied with F Alexander True for second spot in franchise history, one behind F Scott Eansor. . . .
For the third straight series, the Saskatoon Blades trail a series 2-0, only this time they are playing Game 3 at home. That will be tonight against the Winnipeg Ice, who won the first two games of the Eastern Conference final at home. . . . The Blades, of course, are coming off two seven-game series; they lost the first two games of each of those series on home ice. . . . Saskatoon was back at practice on Monday, after taking a day off on Sunday. . . . Here’s Saskatoon head coach Brennan Sonne, in conversation with Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: “We practised April 1, April 13, April 15. Those are the last team practices we had, which is a very low number. That was out of necessity because of the schedule and the fatigue factor. We’ve played 16 games in 30 days, and very emotional games — these aren’t just Sunday skates. Getting the day off, and getting a practice day in today, and resetting, is vital for our group.” . . .
The Blazers and Blades both are faced with winning four of five games from the conference regular-season champions? Can it be done? We should have a better indication after tonight’s games.
The 2023 Kamloops Kidney Walk is scheduled for June 4, and Dorothy is taking part once again. She will celebrate 10 years as a kidney-transplant recipient in September, so the annual Kidney Walk is a big deal for her. In fact, she is participating for a 10th straight year. Yes, that means she is fund-raising, with all donations going to the Kidney Foundation. . . . If you are interested in helping, you are able to do so on her home page, which is right here.
A note from Scott MacIntosh (@scottmacintosh4), the Halifax Mooseheads’ communications manager: “The Quebec Remparts set a new QMJHL attendance record (Sunday) with 17,911 at Videotron Centre. In a total of 13 playoff home games combined, the Remparts and Mooseheads have hosted 143,549 fans during the postseason.” . . .
Perry Pearn, a former WHL coach, has led Japan’s men’s national team to the Division I Group B title in Tallinn, Estonia. Pearn is in his first season with Japan, which went 5-0 and outscored its opponents 29-10 in the tournament. . . . In the final, Japan built up a 5-0 lead and held on for a 5-3 victory over Ukraine. . . . By winning the tournament, Japan earned promotion to Division I Group A for the first time since 2016. . . . Pearn also is head coach of Japan’s national junior team, which beat Ukraine in the final of the Division I Group B tournament in December to earn promotion to Group A for the first time. . . . Pearn, 71, is from Stettler, Alta. He was the head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers in 1994-95. . . .
The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have signed general manager Mike Hawes and head coach Alex Evin to contract extensions. . . . Hawes, 53, just completed his 18th season with the organization and now is signed for three more seasons. He is preparing for his 13th season as the club’s GM. . . . Evin, 35, has signed for two more seasons. He has been with the Spruce Kings for six seasons — two as associate coach and four as head coach.
THINKING OUT LOUD — I am a fan of neither the Edmonton Oilers nor the Toronto Maple Leafs. But I would love to see them meet up in the Stanley Cup final, if for no other reason than to see what the TV ratings would be in the U.S. . . . Yes, it’s true. G Akira Schmid, the Swiss goaltender who is starring for the New Jersey Devils these days, played in the WHL. Yes, he did. In 2018-19, he started one game for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, gave up seven goals and ended up with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. . . . My iPod is fully charged and I will be listening to a whole lot of Gordon Lightfoot before my night is done.
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
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
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
Or, for more information, visit right here.