Blue Jackets’ prexy: We want our people vaccinated . . . Report: Kraken players all vaccinated . . . U.S. keeping border closed for at least another month

When the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets revealed their training camp roster on JacketsTuesday, F Zac Rinaldo’s name was nowhere to be found even though they had signed him as a free agent to a two-way contract last month — US$750,000 in the NHL, $275,000 in the AHL. . . . John Davidson, the Blue Jackets’ president of hockey operations, explained that Rinaldo “is not vaccinated and because of that — and that’s his decision — the plan is to start him in the American Hockey League and he will not be coming to our training camp.” . . . And wouldn’t you love to know what the other players in the Cleveland Monsters’ camp think about that? . . . Rinaldo, 31, was pointless in five games with the Calgary Flames last season. . . . Davidson also said: “When you read the amount of players, the percentage that have been vaccinated, it’s a big, big number. There’s very few who aren’t, and that’s their own personal choice. I’m not going to sit here and tell them what to do, even though I’d like to see the whole world get vaccinated. My daughter’s a doctor. She believes in this, and I believe in her because she’s a whole lot smarter than I am. I’d like to see the whole world get vaccinated. We have a responsibility as the leaders of the organization. We want our people vaccinated. We want them wearing masks as much as possible.” . . . Earlier this month, the Blue Jackets dumped assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre after he chose not to get vaccinated. . . . It’s interesting, too, that the Blue Jackets’ training camp is presented by Ohio Health, which bills itself as “a family of not-for-profit, faith-based hospitals & healthcare organizations.” . . .

Aaron Portzline of The Athletic later tweeted: “Told the NHL Players’ Association is reviewing the #CBJ decision to ban forward Zac Rinaldo from attending #NHL training camp because he’s not vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.”


CBC News — “COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have climbed to an average of more than 1,900 a day for the first time since early March, with experts saying the virus is preying largely on a distinct group: 71 million unvaccinated Americans.”


Meanwhile, Lou Lamoriello, the president of hockey operations and general manager of the New York Islanders, told reporters on Tuesday that everyone in that organization is vaccinated, with the exception of one player. “That is his voluntary decision not to be vaccinated,” said Lamoriello, who didn’t identify the player. Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press tweeted that the Islanders are “looking to assign him to Europe. (He) won’t be invited to camp.”


Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times wrote Tuesday that he has been told that 100 Krakenper cent of the Seattle Kraken’s players are fully vaccinated “even though general manager Ron Francis said he wasn’t authorized to comment.” . . . In an interesting piece, Baker writes: “Given our city’s dark history with pandemics and hockey, it’s a relief to see Kraken players aren’t testing the resolve of both the team and most of the local community. With the 1919 Stanley Cup final in Seattle still the lone major sports championship ever canceled by a pandemic that also killed some players and maybe coaches as well, it’s good to see the league and Players’ Association getting tough about vaccine compliance.” . . . Baker’s piece, which is well worth a read, is right here.


Officials with a pair of American junior hockey teams said late last month that they had players who chose not to get vaccinated. In a Spokane Spokesman-Review story written by Dan Thompson and published on Aug. 26, Bob Tobiason, the owner of the junior B Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, and Bliss Littler, the general manager of the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild, both say they experienced that situation. . . . “Some of the kids, they were willing to get vaccinated,” Tobiason said, “but there were quite a few who weren’t gonna do it.” The Braves announced last month that they will sit out their second straight KIJHL season. . . . “Did we lose a player or two? Yeah, we did, a few kids who didn’t wanna get a shot,” Littler said. “But there’s a lot of kids who wanna play in the BCHL.” . . . The Wild sat out last season, but it’s full steam ahead right now, although it is scheduled to play its first eight regular-season games in B.C., as the league hopes for the U.S. to open its border in the near future. The Wild’s home-opener is scheduled for Nov. 12. . . . Thompson’s story is right here.

The U.S. government said Monday that it will keep its land border with Canada closed at least until Oct. 21. It has been closed since March 2020. . . . Interestingly, fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed entry to Canada since Aug. 9. . . . The WHL, of course, is watching this with great interest because the closure already has resulted in major schedule revisions. The league’s original plan for 2021-22 was to have teams playing within their conferences. But because the border is closed to southbound traffic, the WHL has adjusted its schedule for October and now has the 10 Western Conference teams playing only within their divisions.

Organizers of the Brian Steele Early Bird Tournament that is sanctioned by the Greater Toronto Hockey League and scheduled for Toronto, Oct. 25-31, have dropped three age groups — U-10, U-11 and U-12 — because players on those teams are too young to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic reported Tuesday that organizers cited “rising infections, safety concerns and risks to the event itself by having unvaccinated children take part.” . . . Apparently, two teams had pulled out of the tournament because of what they felt was the risk presented by COVID-19. . . . Fitz-Gerald’s story is right here.

Remember when Colin Kaepernick was kneeling and other NFL players were following suit and a whole lot of people were whining about longer watching games on TV because of those actions? . . . Here are a few observations on the NFL’s Week 2 ratings from Sports Media Watch: “Mannings double their Week 1 audience. . . . CBS scores most-watched Sept. doubleheader since 2014. . . . FOX has most-watched Week 2 singleheader since 2016. . . . NBC has most-watched Week 2 SNF game since 2018.” . . . Whatever happened to those people who were done with watching the NFL?


The Central Plains Capitals have been granted a leave of absence for 2021-22 by the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League. . . . “You can blame the pandemic and a declining number of eligible hockey players in the region for that,” wrote Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press. . . . Nancy Funk, the general manager of the team that plays out of Portage la Prairie, told Sawatzky: “It was an extremely difficult decision, obviously. “We’ve been talking about it for a few days pretty intensely but we were hoping that there would be some kind of heroes come in at the 11th hour and hopefully it would be able to round out the roster. But it just didn’t happen this year.”


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Is Lamb ticketed for NHL’s Oilers? . . . Is Gustafson Blazers’ next head coach? . . . They want how much for Memorial Cup tickets?


All signs are pointing to the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers introducing Dave Tippett as their next head coach, perhaps as early as today (Friday).

In fact, it could be that Ken Holland, the Oilers’ new general manager, and Tippett finalized things in Vancouver on Thursday prior to Holland’s induction into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

Tippett, 57, has been working as senior advisor to the group that owns the NHL expansion franchise in Seattle. He has ample NHL coaching experience, although he hasn’t been behind an NHL bench since 2016-17 when he was with the Arizona Coyotes.

What impact might Tippett’s return to coaching have in the WHL? There is speculation, PrinceGeorgeas you can see from Robin Brownlee’s tweet, that Tippett might bring Mark Lamb on board as an assistant coach in Edmonton.

Lamb is preparing for his second season as the general manager of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars.

Tippett spent six seasons (2002-09) as the head coach of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, and Lamb was an assistant coach for each of those seasons. Also, Lamb was the head coach of the Tucson Roadrunners, the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, in 2016-17 when Tippett was the Coyotes’ head coach.

The Cougars also are one of two WHL teams — the Kamloops Blazers are the other — without a head coach at the present time.

Prince George fired head coach Richard Matvichuk late this season, with Lamb taking over. However, Lamb has said that he isn’t interested in continuing as head coach.

While speculation about a new head coach has been quiet out of Prince George, it is believed that Lamb has been planning to do a lot of work on filling the vacancy during the NHL draft, which is scheduled for Vancouver, June 21 and 22. By then the Cougars might be looking for a general manager, too.

After all, would you rather be the general manager of a WHL team or an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers?

Meanwhile, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week has reported that the Blazers have Kamloops1“about five candidates” on their short list as they look to replace Serge Lajoie, whose stint as head coach lasted one season. Lajoie now is the head coach of the midget prep team at OHA Edmonton.

At the moment, I would suggest that Kyle Gustafson, who has been on the coaching staff of the Portland Winterhawks since 2003-04, is the favourite to be the Blazers’ next head coach. Gustafson was in Kamloops last week and, no, he wasn’t here on a shopping trip.

Matt Bardsley, who just completed his first season and his first bantam draft as Kamloops’ general manager, joined the Blazers after a long run with the Winterhawks, so he is quite familiar with Gustafson.

Furthermore, Gustafson came awfully close to getting a contract as the Blazers’ head coach last summer. He lost out when ownership chose to go in a different direction, deciding to go with Lajoie, who hadn’t coached previously in the WHL, over Gustafson, who had all that WHL experience and is especially familiar with the Western Conference.

Obviously, that didn’t work out, but now Gustafson finally may be about to get his first shot at being a WHL head coach. He certainly has paid his dues.

At one time, Darryl Sydor, one of the Blazers’ co-owners and an assistant coach with the team, was believed to be a favourite to be the next head coach. Taking Note has been told that Sydor will remain part of the team’s coaching staff, but that he won’t be the head guy.

If the Blazers haven’t signed Gustafson by mid-June, you have to think that he will visit Vancouver during the NHL draft and look up Lamb, or whomever is conducting the Cougars’ coaching search at that point.

It may be major junior hockey, but that hasn’t kept tickets for Sunday’s Memorial Cup final in Halifax from going into the pricing stratosphere. . . . The host Mooseheads will be in the final, playing either the OHL-champion Guelph Storm or QMJHL-champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who will meet in tonight’s semifinal game. . . . Tickets for the final carried an original price of $50 to $75. On Thursday, in places like StubHub and kijiji, sellers were looking for as much as $1,000 per ticket. Surely, no one is paying those prices, or are they? . . . There is more right here from Jon Tattrie of CBC News.

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The Calgary Hitmen have signed D Grayden Siepmann and F Brandon Whynott to WHL Calgarycontracts. . . . Siepmann is the fourth first-round selection from the May 2 bantam draft to sign a WHL contract. Calgary selected him with the 13th overall pick. . . . From Abbotsford, B.C., Siepmann played this season with the Yale Hockey Academy bantam prep team, scoring eight goals and adding 21 assists in 29 regular-season games. He had two goals and two assists in five playoff games. . . . Whynott, from Langley, B.C., also played for the bantam prep team at Yale Academy, which is in Abbotsford. Whynott had 17 goals and 15 assists in 30 games, and had one goal and one assist in the playoffs. Whynott was taken in the second round of the 2019 bantam draft.

Stephen Whyno, a hockey writer with The Associated Press, has written a piece that carries this headline — Faces of concussions: NHL’s head-on battle with an epidemic. . . . This is devastating stuff, especially when former NHLer Daniel Carcillo says: “I’m going to choose when I’m going to go. I’ll make that decision of how much pain I’m going to put my loved ones through that are around me.” . . . Carcillo is 34 years of age and wonders what the future holds as he tries to live with the after-effects of at least seven concussions. . . . There is more to this story than Carcillo, though, and as you read it you come to the realization, again, that hockey at all levels needs to do everything it can to get rid of headshots. Yes, the WHL absolutely must ban fighting. . . . Whyno’s piece is right here. Give it 10 minutes of your time.



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