Lots of food for thought in losses by Broncos and Warriors . . . QMJHL increases penalties for fighting at government request . . . Mustangs cleared for return to ice

Four of the WHL’s 22 teams are publicly owned and, as such, are obligated to hold annual general meetings and to release their financial statements.

Two of those teams — the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos — whlannounced combined losses of more than $1 million on Tuesday night, something that should have set off alarm bells among fans hoping for some kind of 2020-21 season.

Moose Jaw finished the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season in last place in the East Division, while Swift Current was in the cellar of the Central Division. So neither team was in line to reap the rewards that come with qualifying for the playoffs.

The Broncos, whose average attendance dropped 444 from the previous season, lost $791,000, ending a run of six straight seasons in which they had shown a profit. Season-ticket sales were down 345, which is a big number for a team that plays in a 2,879-seat facility.

The Warriors, with their attendance down 366 per game, lost $391,299, running their two-season deficit to $556,444.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Randy Palmer of moosejawtoday.com reported that the team attributed $282,286 of its deficit  to “pandemic-related lost revenues.”

The Warriors also had to pay $180,846 as its share of the settlement of a $30-MooseJawWarriorsmillion class-action lawsuit, although that settlement has yet to be approved by the court. Still, assuming that it is, each of the WHL’s Canadian teams will be on the hook for that amount.

The Warriors, Palmer reported right here, still have $610,653 in the bank, but they did defer their annual $200,000 payment that is part of their commitment to the Multiplex. They have two payments left in a 10-year pledge.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Warriors Booster Club raised $238,771 in 2019-20.

The Warriors, like all WHL teams, are going to have a different organizational look whenever it is that play resumes. As club president Chad Taylor told Palmer: “We’ll need the help of the community when we get going again and hockey will look different — our staff will look different, we’ll be leaner — but that is the times and we’ll make it work.”

The Broncos, meanwhile, also will be leaner. These days, Dean Brockman, the SCBroncosdirector of hockey operations and head coach, is the only employee working on the hockey side of things, with Nathan MacDonald and Ryan Stricker on the business side. Their retail store — The Stable — is open and management has authorized 10 paid hours per week for communications.

Trent McLeary, a former Broncos player who now is chairman of the team’s board of directors, said after the AGM that “it’s a fight to survive,” stating that it will take the franchise years to recover from the loss.

“It’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” McLeary told Steven Mah of the Southwest Booster. “We don’t think we have to make this up in one year . . . so there’s lots of challenges, lots of things that are going to challenge us as an organization, as a community. But we’re not the only ones, you look at baseball, you look at soccer, you look at everything.”

(Mah’s story is right here.)

The WHL’s two other publicly owned teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — have yet to hold their annual general meetings.

The Raiders’ meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7. Following the 2018-19 season, one Raiders50in which they won the WHL championship, they announced a profit of $633,314. In the previous five seasons, they had shown losses totalling $806,571 in four of them; the exception being a profit of $3,892 in 2015-16.

When the 2019-20 season was halted, the Raiders were 36-18-10 and had clinched first place in the East Division. They had two home games remaining and may well have had a deep playoff run in their future. Their average attendance also was up 27 over the previous season, meaning the championship love affair in that city still was in full bloom.

The Hurricanes have said they will hold their AGM on a November date that Lethbridgehasn’t yet been announced.

They are coming off four straight profit-making seasons. Last season’s profit of $282,168 allowed the four-season total to grow to $1,639,321. (Don’t forget, though, that they had losses totalling more than $1.25 million in the previous five seasons.)

When the 2019-20 season ended, Lethbridge was 37-19-7 and third in the Central Division. Its attendance was down one fan per game, to 3,970, over 2018-19. Still, it lost three home dates to the cancellation, and who knows how many playoff games were in its future?

The Hurricanes pay the City of Lethbridge an annual maintenance fee of $166,667 for their home arena, the Enmax Centre. Last month, the Hurricanes and the City agreed to a one-year deferment of that payment, in the process adding a year to the arena lease that now runs through 2029-30. The Hurricanes asked for the deferment, citing revenues lost to the pandemic.

We will find out in November just how much they lost.

I would suggest that the four publicly owned franchises are far from being the WHL’s biggest spenders. Of course, the privately owned teams don’t have to share their numbers with the public. But judging by what the Broncos and Warriors reported, and what is surely to come from the Hurricanes and Raiders, you have to think there is some major pain being felt.

And that’s why the WHL can’t afford to start a season without being able to operate at less than 50 per cent capacity in its arenas. The losses from a season played without restrictions, albeit a shortened one, were large. Losses from a season played without fans in the stands would be mind-numbing.


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Here, in summation, is what I believe has happened with the QMJHL and qmjhlnewfighting. . . . The league approached the government and asked for $20 million in subsidies to help its 12 Quebec-based team get through the pandemic. . . . Isabelle Charest, a former Olympic speed skater who is the junior education minister, suggested the league needed to do more to eliminate fighting. . . . On Wednesday, the QMJHL’s board of governors voted to slap a fighter with a major and a misconduct, meaning that player would have to sit out 15 minutes. A player also would face a one-game suspension after accumulating three fights, with more time off for each fight after that. . . . Here is the QMJHL’s Rule 47: “All players involved in a fight will now be assessed a misconduct penalty (duration of 10 minutes) which will be added to the major penalty (five minutes), except if a player involved is considered an instigator or an aggressor. An automatic one-game suspension will be assessed after the third fight, and for any additional fight.” . . . There is a chart right here that explains all possible situations. . . . I guess we can assume the QMJHL now is awaiting an etransfer from the government.


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COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs said Wednesday that they have been “approved to resume our training hockey-related activities.” Things had been on hold since Sept. 25 when one of their players tested positive. . . . According to the Mustangs, all tests “administered . . . this week have come back negative and there is no risk of the spread of the virus.: . . .

The Tennessee Titans have a reported nine positive tests in their organization, and the NFL has said their game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers that had been scheduled for Sunday will be played Monday or Tuesday. . . . The Titans have halted football-related activities until at least Saturday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings, who played the visiting Titans on Sunday, haven’t had any positives. They should return to their practice facility today (Thursday). . . .

The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are forecasting a $10-million loss, revealed Wednesday that they have terminated some employees and laid off others in both business and football operations. . . . In a statement, the team said it “had to make significant adjustments to our workforce including temporary and permanent layoffs in both the Business Operations and Football Operations.” . . . Matt Lowry, a content provider with the team for four years, tweeted that he had been laid off, and added: “There’s too many awesome co-workers to thank, but you know who you are, and you’ll hear from me. And please WEAR A MASK so we can all enjoy the 2021 CFL season from wherever you may be.” . . .

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is in the process of terminating 40 per cent of its staff at TD Place. The arena and stadium are home to the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, both of which are owned by OSEG. However, staff from those teams weren’t included in the terminations. . . .

MLB announced Wednesday that it will allow about 11,500 fans into NLCS and World Series games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Fans haven’t been allowed into MLB games since spring training. . . . Face masks will be mandatory and, according to MLB, “No seats will be sold within 20 feet of where a player can be located on the field, in the dugouts or in the bullpen.” . . . Some numbers from Deadspin’s Jesse Spector: “In September, there were 6,913 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County, Texas, including 447 reported on Wednesday, the final day of the month. That brings the cumulative tally for the county to 46,527 people stricken by coronavirus, with 721 dead from the pandemic.”



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JUST NOTES: Steve Hogle, who spent six seasons as president of the Saskatoon Blades, has been hired as the general manager of Hockey Edmonton. Hogle is from Edmonton and played minor hockey there. Before joining the Blades, he was with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers as vice-president of communications and broadcasting. He replaces the retiring Dean Hengel with Hockey Edmonton. . . . The Minnesota Twins, who were eliminated from the American League playoffs yesterday, have lost 18 straight post-season games, going back to 2004. Since then, the Houston Astros, who finished off the Twins, have won 43 playoff games. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has a good look at Al Murray, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s assistant GM and director of amateur scouting, right here. It’s well worth your time.


Books

Will McCrimmon stay, or will he go? . . . Another hall beckons Ridley. . . . Broncos explain broadcast plans

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It seems most likely that Bob Nicholson, the Edmonton Oilers’ CEO who is searching for a general manager, will chat with Kelly McCrimmon one of these days.

McCrimmon, who owns the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, is in his third season as the Oilersassistant general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

Here’s Robin Brownlee of oilersnation.com: “The bottom line in job interviews has the prospective employer asking candidates — either directly or by nibbling around the edges — ‘Tell me why we should hire you?’ If I was in McCrimmon’s shoes and staring across the table at Nicholson, I’d be asking, ‘So, tell me why I should work for you?’ If it goes like that, and I suspect that it will, Nicholson had better have his fastball ready.” (Brownlee’s latest is right here.)

So, if this scenario plays out, will McCrimmon end up in Edmonton? Or will he move on to the expansion franchise in Seattle? Or will he stay put?

Time, of course, will tell, but history tells me that McCrimmon may just stay in Vegas and continue to work alongside general manager George McPhee.

Why do I lean that way?

Because McCrimmon, now 58, has a history of wanting to see things through. And after the way the Golden Knights’ season ended on Tuesday night, he may just want to stay there and play it out, something he has done a time or two.

As the 1980s turned into the ’90s, McCrimmon was the Wheat Kings’ general manager and head coach, having taken over as the latter when Doug Sauter took ill during the 1989-90 season.

He later gave up — temporarily, as it turned out — coaching duties to focus on reshaping the organization’s way of doing business. Back then, the Wheat Kings often scrambled just to get into the playoffs, only to be bounced early. By 1992-93, McCrimmon, the GM, owned one-third of the franchise and the reshaping was in high gear. A team that had won only 11 games in 1991-92 put up 43 victories in 1993-94. That was the start of seven straight seasons with at least 39 victories and included three trips to the WHL final and one championship. McCrimmon had surrounded himself with good people and they had turned a once-faltering franchise into one of the best in all of the CHL.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015. The Wheat Kings, with McCrimmon now owner, GM and head coach, were coming off a season in which they went 53-11-8, only to lose out in the WHL final. Then, in May, the Toronto Maple Leafs came calling as they searched for an assistant GM.

By early June there were reports that the Leafs had made an offer to McCrimmon, who had become the Wheat Kings’ sole owner in 2000. As tempted as McCrimmon was to join the Leafs, he chose to stay in Brandon. Why? Because he had overseen the building of the Wheat Kings into a championship contender and he felt he owed it to the players he had drafted and recruited to see it through.

In 2015-16, the Wheat Kings were 48-18-6, and then went on a 16-5 run as they won the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champs.

On Aug. 2, 2016, the Golden Knights announced that they had hired McCrimmon as assistant GM. His fingerprints are all over the organization, including the hirings of Vaughn Karpan as director of player personnel, Bob Lowes as assistant director of player personnel and scouts like Kelly Kisio, Bruno Campese and Erin Ginnell.

You can bet that McCrimmon had a lot to do with the February acquisition and subsequent signing of forward Mark Stone, too. He had played four seasons in Brandon after being a fifth-round pick in the WHL’s 2007 bantam draft.

For all of those reasons, then, McCrimmon just may choose to stay with the Golden Knights, who were in the Stanley Cup final as an expansion team just one year ago.

He has had a hand in all of it and just may want to be an active part of wherever it goes.

Or . . . maybe not!


The semifinals are set at the IIHF U-18 World Championship that is being played in CanadaOrnskoldsvik and Umea, Sweden. . . . Team Canada got past Latvia, 3-1, in Umea on Thursday, and now will travel to Ornskoldsvik to play the host Swedes on Saturday. . . . D Braden Schneider (Brandon Wheat Kings) gave Canada a 1-0 first-period lead, with F Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg Ice) being credited with the 2-0 goal after a Latvian defender scored an own goal on an attempted clearance. . . . Krebs later added an empty-netter. . . . Schneider added an assist to his goal, with F Connor Zary (Kamloops Blazers) and F Brayden Tracey (Moose Jaw Warriors) each earning one assist. . . . G Taylor Gauthier (Prince George Cougars) recorded the victory. . . . Sweden advanced with a 4-2 victory over Czech Republic. . . .

On the other side of the draw, Russia blanked Belarus, 6-0, and Team USA, behind three goals from F Jack Hughes and one from F Cole Caufield, dumped Finland, 6-0. Hughes now has eight goals and eight assists, while Caufield has scored 12 times. . . . Team USA and Russia will meet in a semifinal game on Saturday, also in Ornskoldsvik.

In Game 1 of the best-of-three relegation round, Switzerland dumped Slovakia, 4-1.

The tournament is scheduled to end on Sunday.


Just call him Bob (Hall of Fame) Ridley. . . . Ridley, the only play-by-play voice the Medicine Hat Tigers have had, will be inducted into the Western Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in Banff on June 6. The WAB made that announcement on Thursday. . . . Earlier, it was announced that Ridley will be going into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony in Canmore on July 21. . . . He already is a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. . . . Ridley has been with CHAT in Medicine Hat since 1968 and has been the voice of the Tigers since they entered the WHL for the 1970-71 season. . . . In all that time, he has missed only one game; legend has it that he was assigned to cover a women’s curling event in which the boss’s wife was playing. . . . Including regular-season and playoffs, he has called the play of 3,931 games involving the Tigers. . . . Ridley also drove the team’s bus until a couple of seasons ago. For some reason, he hasn’t yet been inducted into a bus drivers’ hall of fame. . . . There is more right here on the WAB honour, including ticket information.


If you have ever wanted to own a hockey team, well, this just might be your lucky day. . . . A tip of the Taking Note fedora to a regular reader for sending this along and, yes, it’s legit. . . . And, no, this isn’t a paid advertisement. . . .

 

ForSale


Games involving the Tri-City Americans will be heard on NewsTalk 870 KFLD for two more seasons after the WHL team and Townsquare Media announced a new two-year deal on Thursday. . . . Tri-City’s home-and-away games have been on the station since the 2000-01 season. . . . Craig West, the American’s vice-president of sponsorship sales/broadcasting, is the team’s radio voice.


The Swift Current Broncos revealed earlier this month that they are abandoning the SCBroncostraditional role of having their games on conventional radio, and moving to a model that includes streaming broadcasts. . . . On Thursday, they issued a lengthy news release explaining their new approach. . . . When the news broke earlier in the month, someone familiar with the situation told Taking Note that a “major hang up is broadcast rights/revenue sharing.” In other words, the Broncos were wanting Golden West Radio, the rights holder, to cough up some money, something that apparently wasn’t going to happen. . . . The Broncos’ news release that was issued on Thursday includes this: “The previous model of broadcasting did not provide the Broncos organization with the positive economic impact that sports broadcast rights at our level is expected to provide. By managing our own broadcasting and establishing a business model that leverages our full-time employees’ skill sets and abilities, we will be able to generate a positive financial benefit that will contribute to the long-term financial strength of our organization.” . . . That pretty much explains it all. . . . The complete news release is right here.


The Saskatoon Blades have made some moves on the business side of their organization. Saskatoon. . . Colin Priestner, who just completed his third season as the team’s general manager, now is the president and GM. He will, according to a news release, “oversee all operations . . . in both the hockey and business departments.” . . . Steve Hogle, who had been the president, now is senior advisor. He remains as the Blades’ alternate governor. (Mike Priestner, the team’s owner, is the governor.) . . . Hogle, according to the news release, also “is taking on additional duties with the Blades’ parent company, Go Auto.” . . . Tyler Wawryk, the team’s communications manager for three seasons, has been promoted to director of business operations. . . . Cliff Mapes, who had been vice-president of business, no longer is with the Blades. . . . The complete news release is right here.


George Cochrane has been named the combines manager for the Okanagan Hockey Group, where he will work with Jason Wild, the manager of combines operations. . . . Cochrane had been the head coach of the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association from 2006-17. He left that position to join BC Hockey as manager of programs at their Okanagan Regional Centre. This season, he also was the general manager for the Kamloops-based Thompson Blazers of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. . . . There is a complete news release right here.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The Vancouver Giants get their first chance at advancing to the WHL championship final tonight when they entertain the Spokane Chiefs in Langley, B.C. The Giants hold a 3-1 edge in the Western Conference final, after F Dawson Holt scored at 7:07 of OT to give them a 4-3 victory in Spokane on Wednesday night. . . . Holt has three goals and two assists in the four games with the Chiefs. He has five goals and seven assists in 14 playoff games after totalling six goals and 13 assists in 53 regular-season games. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia has more on Holt and this series right here. . . . The Giants haven’t been in the WHL final since the spring of 2007 when they lost a seven-game series to the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Giants were the host team for the Memorial Cup that year and went on to win it all. . . .

The Eastern Conference final also resumes tonight as the Edmonton Oil Kings meet the Raiders in Prince Albert. . . . The series is tied, 2-2, after the Raiders skated to a 2-1 victory in Edmonton on Wednesday night. These teams will return to Edmonton for Game 6 on Sunday afternoon.


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