Reports have major junior leagues now aiming for Dec. 1 . . . Former Blades captain dies . . . Morden team changing nickname, logo

If you own a junior hockey franchise, you have to be watching the goings-on in MLB and wondering.

While the NBA and NHL have their teams all bubbled up and, at least to date, avoiding the coronavirus, you know that you don’t have the resources to attempt anything like that.

But then you look at MLB, which is attempting to do what you are hoping to do at some point this year — bring your team together and then travel in order to play games in various venues.

It isn’t going all that well for MLB, which is forging ahead despite having had two teams — the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals — decimated by the virus and another (Philadelphia Phillies) also been hit.

Through Tuesday, 23 MLB games involving nine teams had been postponed. The season is 13 days old.

At this point, then, you likely are holding your breath and hoping.

Earlier, the QMJHL and WHL had announced proposed starting dates of Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, respectively, for their 2020-21 regular seasons. The OHL hadn’t gone public with any such date.

Now there are reports that the three major junior leagues will announce perhaps as soon as today (Wednesday) that they hope to start their 2020-21 regular seasons on Dec. 1.

Postponing the start by two more months buys them some more time. The leagues will be able to sit back and watch developments, including the possible opening of schools.

The OHL and WHL also have teams located in the U.S., where, you may have noticed, things aren’t going so well. Two more months gives the leagues time to watch for improvements in that area, although under present leadership that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

And, of course, there’s the little matter of the U.S.-Canada border being closed. Do you think it’ll be open again in 2020?

——


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

On Sunday, the Cincinnati Reds placed 1B Joey Votto, a native of Toronto, on the injury list after he self-reported symptoms of the virus. On Monday, he hit a two-run, go-ahead homer to help the Reds beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2. . . . It turns out that he tested negative and was reinstated. . . .

The much-ballyhooed Field of Dreams game, which was to have featured the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox on Aug. 13, has been postponed to August 2021. A date has yet to be announced. . . .

The Cardinals’ season is on hold after seven players and six staff members tested positive. . . . Six of the players are SS Paul DeJong, RHP Junior Fernández, C Yadier Molina, 1B Rangel Ravelo, SS Edmundo Sosa and RHP Kodi Whitley, each of whom gave the team the OK to release their names. The identity of a seventh player wasn’t released. . . . DeJong and Molina are all-star calibre players. . . . In a statement, Molina said he was “saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after adhering to safety guidelines that were put in place.” . . .

Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, had some thoughts on the mess in which MLB finds itself. He concluded with this: “Baseball in 2020 reminds me of a guy at a poker table who is losing his shirt but keeps dipping into his bank account for another stake because he is ‘due for some good cards.’ It seems to me that MLB thinks it is due for some good news and just keeps on keeping on. . . . Albert Einstein reminded us that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes.” . . . You should read the entirety of the curmudgeonly one’s latest post right here.

——

The NFL’s Detroit Lions moved QB Matthew Stafford from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and placed him on the regular roster, saying that what was reported as a positive test actually was a false-positive. . . . The Jacksonville Jaguars did the same with QB Gardner Minshew after it was determined that he had tested negative. Minshew joked that the virus “took one look at me and ran the other way.” . . .

At least 48 players have opted out of playing in the NFL’s 2020 season. The league has a deadline of Thursday afternoon for players to make that decision. . . . Barry Wilner of The Associated Press has more right here.

——

Rafael Nadal, the No. 2-ranked men’s tennis player, won’t play in this month’s U.S. Open, which is to start on Aug. 31. He said that he doesn’t want to travel during the pandemic. . . . The last time a tennis major didn’t feature either Roger Federer, who is out after having knee surgery, and Nadal? That was the 1999 U.S. Open. . . .

Meanwhile, Bianca Andreescu, who won the women’s U.S. Open title last year, said that she will be in New York to defend her title. . . . Andreescu, 20, from Mississauga, Ont., is the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title. . . .

——

The 104th running of the Indy 500 will take place without fans. Roger Penske, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said earlier in the year that the race, which was postponed from Memorial Day weekend to Aug. 23, would allow some fans to attend. . . . But with numbers rising in Marion County, Indiana, home of the Speedway, Penske has decided not to allow fans. . . .

The AHL has cancelled its 2020-21 All-Star Classic that was to have been played host to by the Laval Rocket on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Instead, Laval will be the site of the 2021-22 Classic on a date yet to be determined. . . . The AHL is hoping to being its 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 4. . . .

Tennis lost the Madrid Open as the 2020 event, which features men’s and women’s draws, was cancelled. Originally scheduled in May, it had been postponed to September. But an increase in COVID-19 cases resulted in the event being cancelled.

——


You will recall that the Houston Astros have been branded as cheaters after getting caught up in a sign-stealing scandal that has some baseball folks claiming the team actually stole a World Series title. . . . The other day, with the host Astros playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are particularly bitter, Houston’s Jose Altuve, who is really struggling at the plate, happened to strike out. Joe Davis, doing the play-by-play for the Dodgers, said Altuve was “perhaps guessing something else.” . . . Former Dodgers P Orel Hershiser, the analyst on the broadcast crew, disagreed. Said Hershiser: “Guessing’s harder than knowing.”



The QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes announced Tuesday that head coach Gordie Dwyer has left the organization in the hopes of landing a spot with a pro team. . . . Dwyer took over as head coach on Feb. 9, then went 6-6-0 before the league shut down because of the pandemic. . . . At the time, Dwyer took over from the fired Daniel Renaud, who had been the head coach since 2017. He was 23-28-0 last season. . . . The Cataractes will unveil their new coaching staff on Friday.


The Morden Redskins, a men’s team that plays in the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League, has said that it will be changing its nickname and logo, which was fashioned after that belonging to the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Last month, Brandon Burley, the mayor of Morden, asked the team to make a change.


JUST NOTES: I haven’t watched a whole lot of the NHL since it resumed playing, but I’ve seen enough to realize that, despite what you might read in the rules book, cross-checking continues to be legal. . . . I need to find someone in Alberta to cut me in on the Edmonton Oilers’ 50-50 draw. If you aren’t aware, the winner of Monday’s draw put $1,629,722.50 into his/her bank account. On Saturday night, Danielle McGale won $381,275. Yes, she has a whole lot of new friends. . . . I was watching the MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and host Minnesota Twins on Tuesday afternoon and there was a drone delay. Seriously.


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


ThisThat

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.


There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping by here, why not consider donating to the cause? Thank you very much.


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.


Tweetoftheday

 

Ex-WHLer charged after incident at Kelowna beach. . . . Pilon takes over as Red Wings’ coach. . . . Storm is writing quite a story in OHL


MacBeth

F Jozef Balej (Portland, 1999-2002) has signed a one-year extension with Freiburg (Germany, DEL2). He had five goals and two assists in eight regular-season games, then had seven goals and eight assists in 14 games in playdowns (relegation playoffs). He started the season with Žilina (Slovakia, Extraliga). The team captain, he had three goals and eight assists in 31 games. . . .

F Cody Sylvester (Calgary 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with Bad Nauheim (Germany, DEL2). This season, he had 24 goals and 34 assists in 46 games. An alternate captain, he was second on the team goals, assists and points. . . .

F Dustin Sylvester (Kootenay, 2004-10) announced his retirement through the Bad Nauheim (Germany, DEL2) press release that announced his brother Cody’s contract extension. In 52 games this season, Dustin, an alternate captain, had 26 goals and 45 assists. He led the team in goals, assists and points; he was third in the league’s scoring race. . . .

F Jannik Hansen (Portland, 2005-06) announced his retirement in an interview with Danish TV2. This season, with CSKA Moscow (Russia, KHL), he had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games. . . .

G Marek Langhamer (Medicine Hat, 2012-15) has signed a two-year contract extension with Amur Khabarovsk (Russia, KHL). This season, in 19 games, he was 9-8-2, 1.98, .929, with three shutouts and an assist. . . . He started the season with Brno (Czech Republic, Extraliga), going 5-3-0, 2.38, .916 in eight games. . . .

F Liam Jeffries (Kootenay, 2006-07) has signed a one-season extension with the Perth Thunder (Australia, AIHL). Last season, he was pointless in two games. This is Jeffries’ eighth season with Perth.


ThisThat

Giffen Nyren, a defenceman who played four seasons in the WHL, faces charges of assault and willfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer after a man grabbed a baby from a mother in a Kelowna park on Sunday afternoon. . . . The child was wrestled from the man, who ultimately ran, removed his clothes and jumped into Okanagan Lake. . . . Nyren, 30, is from Calgary. He played from 2006-10 with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Kamloops Blazers and Calgary Hitmen. He was part of a Calgary team that won the WHL’s 2010 championship and appeared in the Memorial Cup in Brandon. . . . He began this season playing professionally in France, and finished it with the Lacombe Generals of Allan Cup Hockey West. He is one of nine defencemen listed on the Generals’ roster on their website, but he didn’t play in any of their games as they won the Allan Cup in Lacombe last month. . . . There is more on this story right here.


At some point, the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs signed a player and promised to pay him ohl$10,000 for each season he play with them. The unidentified player spent four seasons there, but, in the end, the IceDogs didn’t pay him. The player sent an email to David Branch, the OHL commissioner, and the stuff has hit the fan since then. . . . Rick Westhead of TSN reported Monday that “an Ontario Superior Court judge has agreed to unseal documents related to an investigation into player recruiting violations by the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs.” . . . Unless the OHL chooses to appeal, those documents will be unsealed on Friday. . . . Westhead’s story is right here.


Rich Pilon, a former WHL and NHL defenceman, is the new head coach of the SJHL’s WeyburnWeyburn Red Wings. The team made it official on Monday. . . . Pilon, 51, played two seasons (1986-88) with the Prince Albert Raiders, then went on to a 14-year pro career that included 631 regular-season NHL games, most of those with the New York Islanders. . . . He has coached minor hockey teams in Saskatoon, and has worked with the city’s two midget AAA teams. . . . Pilon takes over from Kyle Haines, an assistant coach who stepped in as interim head coach after the Red Wings fired Wes Rudy in December. . . . Austin Arvay of discoverweyburn.com has more right here.


F Bowden Singleton, who will turn 15 on May 15, has committed to the U of North Dakota and the Fighting Hawks for 2022-23. From Calgary, he played this season with the Northern Alberta Xtreme bantam prep team, putting up 42 goals and 24 assists in 29 games. . . . He is rated as a first-round pick for Thursday’s WHL bantam draft. . . . Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald has more right here as NCAA teams rush to add commitments before the recruiting rules change. . . .

F Dylan Godbout, who is to turn 15 on Sunday, has committed to the U of Wisconsin and says he will join the Badgers for the 2022-23 season. . . . From Woodbury, Minn., Godbout had four goals and eight assists in 12 games with a bantam team, and added two goals and an assist in seven high school games. . . .

D Carson Brisson, 15, has committed to the U of Denver and the Pioneers for the 2022-23 season. . . . Brisson, from Leduc, Alta., had 18 goals and 19 assists with the bantam AAA Leduc Oil Kings this season. . . . 

D Max Burkholder, 15, has committed to Colorado College and the Tigers for 2022-23. From Chaska, Minn., he had three goals and seven assists in 14 games with a bantam team this season. . . . The Portland Winterhawks selected him in the 10th round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft.


In the OHL, the Guelph Storm completed their comeback on Monday night as they beat the Spirit, 3-2, in Saginaw in Game 7 of their semifinal series. The Storm had trailed the series, 3-1, before winning three straight games. . . . In the second round, Guelph lost the first three games to London, then came back to beat the Knights in Game 7. . . . The Storm will meet the Ottawa 67’s in the final, starting Thursday in Ottawa. The 67’s are 12-0 in these playoffs.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The WHL’s championship final is to open on Friday night with the Prince Albert Raiders playing host to the Vancouver Giants. The series winner will take home the Ed Chynoweth Cup. . . . This is the Raiders’ first appearance in the final since 1985 when they won the title and went on to win the Memorial Cup. . . . Saskatchewan hasn’t been home to a Memorial Cup champion since the Swift Current Broncos won in Saskatoon in 1989. . . . The Giants are in the final for the first time since 2007 when they lost Game 7 to the Medicine Hat Tigers, then won the Memorial Cup as the host team. . . .

Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, has been in the WHL final on two other occasions, with the Kamloops Blazers (1999, lost to the Calgary Hitmen) and Kelowna Rockets (2003, won championship). In 2004, the Rockets, with Habscheid their head coach, won the Memorial Cup as host team. . . .

Michael Dyck, in his first season as the Giants’ head coach, was in the WHL’s 2008 final as the head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. They were swept by the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Last season, Dyck was the head coach of the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes, who played at the Telus Cup. Two years ago, Dyck guided the minor midget Hurricanes to a league championship. In 2016, he was the head coach of the bantam AAA Lethbridge Golden Hawks, who won their league title.


Tweetoftheday

Raiders’ loss improvement from previous season . . . WHL coverage takes two more hits . . . Blades and Warriors add scouts

ThisThat

The Prince Albert Raiders, one of four community-owned WHL franchises, held their PrinceAlbertannual general meeting on Tuesday night and shareholders learned of a $168,430 loss from the 2017-18 season. That was an improvement from the $250,850 loss for 2016-17. . . . According to Trevor Redden of panow.com, the 2017-18 loss came despite “a 13 per cent year-over-year increase in revenues.” . . . Brad Toporowski, the organization’s vice-president, told shareholders there was an 18 per cent increase in travel expenses, some of that due to a U.S. road trip with a low Canadian dollar. . . . Redden’s story is right here.

Two of the other community-owned teams have scheduled their annual meetings for next month. Shareholders in the Moose Jaw Warriors are scheduled to meet on Sept. 12, with Lethbridge Hurricanes’ shareholders to gather on Sept. 17. . . . A year ago, the Hurricanes announced a profit of $737,710 for 2016-17, while the Warriors reported a loss of $463,566, but that came after they contributed more than $700,000 to Mosaic Place to cover a previous pledge and for upgrades in lighting and the sound system. . . . The Broncos don’t seem to have set a date for their annual general meeting just yet, but last year it was held on Sept. 25. They revealed a profit of $135,922 at that meeting.


The press coverage of two WHL teams has taken a huge hit with the departures of two reporters who have long written about the Tri-City Americans, Kelowna Rockets and, indeed, the WHL.

Annie Fowler, a reporter with the Tri-City Herald for more than 18 years, will work her last day there on Aug. 31. She has been laid off, another victim of everything that ails the newspaper industry these days.

In Kelowna, veteran writer Warren Henderson spent his last day with the Capital News after more than 17 years of banging out superb copy. It seems that he will be working in the landscaping business. Henderson didn’t waste away his last day as a reporter, either, as he posted a story on F Trevor Wong, the Rockets’ first-round pick in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft, who has committed to the U of Denver Pioneers but admits that Kelowna isn’t out of the picture. That story is right here.


D Tyson Terretta, a seventh-round selection by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2015 WHL bantam draft, apparently has ended his playing career. . . . Terretta, 18, is from Okotoks, Alta. . . . He was pointless in two games with Seattle in 2016-17, then had one assist in 42 games last season.


The Saskatoon Blades have added two Manitoba-based scouts to their staff. . . . Craig SaskatoonLane of Virden, Man., will be scouting for a WHL team for the first time, although he has scouted for MJHL and SJHL teams for at least 10 years. Lane, whose son, Grady, a forward, was an eighth-round pick of the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft, is a senior manager with Tundra Oil and Gas. . . . Matt Patton of Winnipeg is also a first-time WHL scout. He is a veteran of the MJHL scouting game, and is a supervisor with Maple Leaf Foods.


The Moose Jaw Warriors have firmed up their scouting staff by adding Mark Blair, Zenon Herasymiuk and Todd Ripplinger. They join returnees Tanner McCall, Justin Rayner and MooseJawWarriorsBrendan Wust. . . . Blair, who spent the past 11 seasons with the Kamloops Blazers, is the Warriors’ senior regional scout — west, while Todd Ripplinger has been named senior regional scout — east. Ripplinger, a brother to Jason Ripplinger, the Warriors’ assistant general manager, has worked with the Kamloops Blazers (1991-97) and was the Regina Pats’ scouting director (1997-2011). Of late, he has been the head scout for the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. . . . Herasymiuk, from Calgary, was with the Kootenay Ice for the past two seasons. . . . McCall, from Weyburn, is into his third season with the Warriors. He also is the general manager and head scout for the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings. . . . Rayner, from Regina, is starting his third season with Moose Jaw. He is responsible for scouting WHL teams for the Warriors. . . . Just has been with the Warriors since January 2016. He is the director of player personnel for the junior B Abbotsford Pilots of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. . . . The Warriors’ complete news release is right here.


If you would like to support my wife, Dorothy, as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sept. 23, you are able to do so right here.


A note from Stuart Kemp’s wife, Cathy, indicates that he has been given the OK to start Portlanddriving again, “but during the daytime only.” . . . As she points out, “This is huge . . . as it gives him his freedom back. He has had to sit in the apartment by himself all day, every day by himself.” . . . If you’re late to this story, Stuart, the president of the Portland Winterhawks’ Booster Club, is working to come back from two recent strokes.

I had heard from Stuart earlier Wednesday. He wrote that he has been “working hard on getting better,” adding that he had seen a doctor on Tuesday, who was “amazed at my recovery.”

Later Tuesday, he attended Winterhawks’ training camp at the Moda Center, something that I’m sure did him a world of good.

“It was great seeing many people,” he wrote, “Probably 100 or so came up and said hello. I think I surprised a few as well. . . . It was great to talk to so many who either read online or had heard about it . . . and were shocked to see me there.”

He also has a goal in mind.

“I want to be close to 100 per cent going into the regular season,” he noted. “I figured I’d be between 50 and 60 right now. It’s a lofty goal, but one where I am determined to give this a run for its money.”

Don’t forget that there is a GoFundMe page where you are able to help out Cathy and Stuart. You are able to find it right here.


The junior B Traveland RV Storm of the Prairie Junior Hockey League has signed Cory Unser as head coach. . . . Unser, 38, is from Sedley, Sask. He played two seasons (1998-2000) in the WHL, both with the Brandon Wheat Kings.


Joe Murphy once was the first overall selection in an NHL draft. He was a skilled forward, the furthest thing from an enforcer. These days he’s homeless and hanging around Kenora, Ont. The road he travelled to get there isn’t pretty. But how much responsibility does the NHL have for what has happened to Murphy? . . . Rick Westhead of TSN has Murphy’s story, or at least part of it, right here.


Tweetoftheday

If you check out Steve McLean’s timeline, you will find some interesting chatter about OHL ticket prices . . .

It’s time for WHL to do the right thing . . . Decision-makers must act . . . Fighting, headshots have to go

 


ThisThat

Included in a WHL news release that was issued on June 14 following the league’s annual meeting in Vancouver was this sentence:

“The WHL took further measures to address player safety by introducing new supplemental discipline regulations and raising its standard on illegal checks to the head.”

The news release didn’t provide any further details, but it says here that anything short of a complete ban on fighting and all contact with an opponent’s head, including incidental contact, is a complete failure.

If the WHL really — really, really, really — cares about the health and safety of its players it is time to make these moves. In fact, it’s well past time.

Why?

Well, let’s start with this Ken Dryden piece from the op-ed pages of the Washington Post.

And then there’s this piece right here from The Players Tribune. Written by Nick Boynton, a former major junior player who went to skate in the NHL, it isn’t pretty.

At one point, Boynton writes of his three-year-old son: “But I cannot, in good conscience, let him play the game of ice hockey until something changes and we start looking out for our players by taking the problems of head hits and concussions — and their potential impact on mental health — more seriously.”

Boynton also writes:

“Yes, ours is a physical, violent sport. And it may be the case that we cannot rid hockey of that violence and danger altogether. But at the very least let’s deal with the issues that arise as a result of that. Deal with the head trauma. Deal with the concussions. And deal with all of the ramifications that those things bring about.

“Stop telling people the world is flat and just do the right thing. Instead of ignoring the damage that occurs to the brain when you get your bell rung out on the ice, let’s own up to it and get guys the help they need. Not just after they retire, but while they’re playing the game.

“Let’s start addressing the problem. Let’s look closely at the brain — and how our sport as we currently play it might be harmful to the brain — and begin making things right.”

In a recent conversation with Brandon Rivers of dubnetwork.ca, WHL commissioner Ron Robison was asked about the fact that the OHL has fighting restrictions — Rivers pointed out that “If a player fights more than three times in a season, that player will be subjected to a two-game suspension for each fight over the number allowed” — while the WHL has no such thing.

Robison replied:

“I think that is another example. Each in our own way we are looking to reduce or eliminate fighting or what we would call . . . unnecessary fighting in the game. In our case, we have a WHL Player Safety Seven Point Plan, which has been in place for several seasons. We review that annually and make recommendations and we will be reviewing that actually with our general managers . . . It is an ongoing process. We each approach things a little differently but for the most part we are on the same page as far as what we are trying to accomplish.”

Robison, if you haven’t noticed, has got commissioner-speak down to a fine art where he uses many words to really say, well, not much. What he should have said is this:

“There is more and more scientific evidence linking CTE to blows to the head. Whether or not CTE is a direct result of blows to the head and/or concussions/traumatic brain injury, we are well aware that blows to the head aren’t good and may cause irreparable damage.

“As a result, the WHL is moving to the forefront of this issue by banning fighting. When a player has one fight, he will receive a warning. A second fight will carry with it a two-game suspension, with three games for a third, four for a fourth, etc.

“This is just another case of our wanting to protect the health of our players now and in the future.”

It would be easy for the WHL to adopt the IIHF’s rule that deals with checking to the head or neck. It’s Rule 124 in the IIHF rule book that is readily available at iihf.com.

Dryden, the former NHL goaltender whose latest book is Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey, spoke for 40 minutes at the See The Line symposium in London, Ont., on Thursday.

“Six years ago the process began (with See The Line),” he said. “Injuries happen, sometimes career-diminishing, sometimes career-ending, some that change a person’s life; and change them and make them not them anymore. In six years we are now more aware of that too.

“But after six years we still have this immense problem with brain injury in sports. Why? What can we do now? Our response to it is we need better science; we need to understand it better and that becomes our focus . . . to get better technology and the focus becomes on science. The problem is when it becomes so much of the focus; science takes time and games are played tomorrow.”

Later, he told Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press, whose piece is right here:

“If you don’t force decision-makers to do something, things will remain the same. We have to move beyond just awareness and science. As I said in the end it is up to the decision-makers to take all this awareness that’s been raised and apply it. They have every right to simply carry on and that’s the problem; they are the roadblock. Why do we let them off the hook? Put it into the hands of those whose hands it should be in. Say to them ‘you are not custodians of the game; but custodians of the people playing the game.’ What are you doing for them?”



If you would like to support my wife, Dorothy, as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sept. 23, you are able to do so right here.



Tweetoftheday