Sign stealing in the WHL? Yes, it happened . . . Not watching The Twilight Zone here . . .

It wasn’t quite the Houston Astros, but it turns out that the Kamloops Blazers were involved in the sign-stealing racket in the spring of 1998.

They were in the early stages of a first-round playoff series with the Prince George Kamloops1Cougars when the accusations started flying.

It seems the Cougars were of the opinion that Garnet Stevenson, the Blazers’ backup goaltender, was spying on Prince George head coach Ed Dempsey and his line calls.

“As Dempsey called out the next line combination,” I wrote in the Regina Leader-Post on March 28, 1998, “the Cougars felt that Stevenson was taking it all in and getting that information to Kamloops head coach Marc Habscheid.

“So, for Game 4, the Cougars had enforcer Richard Peacock stand at the end of the bench PrinceGeorgenearest the Blazers’ bench. His job was to screen out Stevenson’s view of Dempsey.”

According to Jim Swanson, then the sports editor of the Prince George Citizen: “Peacock, who also helped by opening the gate for teammates, stood next to Stevenson, talking to him and reminding the goaltender the Cougars knew about the Kamloops spy job. Early in Game 4, Habscheid kept looking for Stevenson for a hint of what the Cougars were planning but he had nothing to report.”

The Blazers won Games 3 and 4 — 5-3 and 2-1 — to take a 3-1 series lead. Prince George then won two straight, 4-1 at home and 4-3 in OT on the road, to force a Game 7, which it won, 2-1, at home.

As for the sign-stealing accusations, Stevenson told me via email this week: “The story was 100 per cent true.”


We were watching an episode of Hogan’s Heroes (so sue me) on Tuesday night when a promo came on for The Twilight Zone. Hey, you know the music . . .

Dorothy: We’re not watching that!

Me: Why not?

Dorothy: Because we’re living in The Twilight Zone right now.

Me: Hard to argue with that kind of reasoning.


Quarantine


As had been anticipated, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has cancelled Wimbledon for 2020. Not postponed. Cancelled. . . . The tournament first was held in 1877. Prior to this, only the First and Second World Wars had kept it off the tennis calendar. . . . It was to have been held from June 29 through July 12. . . . The 2021 tournament is scheduled for June 28 through July 11. . . . At the same time, the ATP and WTA announced that all of their events have been cancelled through July 13. So that takes care of the grass-court season. . . . With Wimbledon gone, the first major the season is scheduled to be the U.S. Open, which is to begin on Aug. 31. For now. . . .

The Queen’s Plate, which was to have run at Woodbine on June 27, is expected to be postponed indefinitely. . . . The race dates to 1860 and is the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. . . .Earlier, Woodbine Entertainment postponed the start of its thoroughbred season, as well as the harness racing season at Mohawk Park. . . .

According to Golf Digest, the R&A is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it has cancelled the 2020 Open Championship (aka the British Open). The tournament was to begin on July 16 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club. . . . The Golf Digest story is right here. . . .


The NFL, meanwhile, is steaming towards the start of its 2020 season early in September. A schedule is to be released around May 9. . . . On a Tuesday conference call, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said: “All of our discussions, all of our focus, has been on a normal, traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums and going through a full 16-game regular season and a full set of playoffs. That’s our focus.” . . . But as The Sports Curmudgeon points out, it was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who knows a thing or two about this pandemic, who noted: “We don’t set the timetable; the virus sets the timetable.” . . .



The Ottawa Senators have announced that four more people from their organization have tested positive for the coronavirus. They now have had seven people test positive, all of them having been part of the group that travelled to California and returned to Ottawa on a chartered flight on March 12. All told, five players and one staff member have tested positive, along with broadcaster Gord Wilson. According to the Senators, the five players and staff member all have recovered. . . . Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has more right here.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and often the eye is glass.”



Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet posted his weekly 31 Thoughts on Wednesday and, as usual, there is some neat stuff here. Especially good is the latter part of the piece where he pays tribute to a number of young players who weren’t able to complete their seasons, including WHLers Jadon Joseph and the Warm twins, Beck and Will. . . . It’s all right here.


The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have added Craig Carter to their staff as assistant general manager and director of player personnel. . . . Carter, who is from Langley, B.C., was the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ director of hockey operations last season after spending two seasons as a scout with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.


Chasing a story in Pats’ shower. Yes, those really were the days . . . Is international tennis season over? . . . Hay still not ready to retire


It’s like a bad dream that just won’t go away. It pops up every year or two, from out of the mist of time. Still, it makes me laugh every single time it appears. Hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself . . .

As for my broadcast partner from back in the day, well, I’m not so sure. LOL!

Those were the days when Peter was working at CK Radio in Regina, alongside Roger Millions. I was at the Regina Leader-Post. Believe it or not, Peter and I were the radio voices of the Regina Pats. Were we any good? I don’t know, but Troy Mick once refused to talk to us, a boycott that ended one night when he scored in OT to win a playoff game.

I don’t have proof that this particular ad resulted in an uptick in listeners, but I don’t have any evidence that it didn’t. So I have always assumed that it did. Although, had it been successful you might have thought there would be another ad done up, perhaps with us on the roof of the team’s bus as it hit the road . . . or perhaps Peter had the whole idea killed.

Anyway . . . whenever this photo rears its handsome head, there always are people wondering about the two young men peeking through the steam. They were two of the Pats fine defencemen — Terry Hollinger, on the left, and Jamie Heward on the right. Yes, that is the same Jamie Heward who now is on the Vancouver Giants’ coaching staff.

BTW, I no longer have any of the autographed pictures left, but I’m not sure if my ex-partner has any remaining. Should you bump into him, though, I would suggest you not ask him.

One other thing about that photo. . . . Back in the day, the media could get into a team’s shower. Now the WHL and its teams won’t allow the media in the dressing rooms.


The City of Toronto has postponed or cancelled all city-led events through June 30. . . . You have to think it would be kind of hard for the Toronto Blue Jays to play home games with something like this in place. Consider that between April 26 and June 30, the original MLB schedule called for the Blue Jays to play 44 home games. . . . You have to think it would be tough, too, for the Toronto Maple Leafs to play home games before June 30 under these circumstances. . . .

The Canadian Open, scheduled for June 8-14 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, is expected to make an announcement later in the week. You have to know that it won’t be held as scheduled. . . .


Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia’s chief executive, has told the Sydney Morning Herald that the international tennis season may well be over. The ATP and WTA have put things on hold until June 7, but Tiley expects the pause to last a lot longer. “My personal view is I think for tennis to come back this year is going to be tough,” Tiley said. “It relies on global travel, and I think that’s probably the last thing that’s going to come back. I think sports that have a domestic focus are in a strong position and sports that have a global focus are more challenged.” . . . 


I’m watching Game 3 of the 1992 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays. I had forgotten just how good Toronto 2B Roberto Alomar was. He really was smooth and made it look easy. . . .


Webster Garrison, a minor league manager with the Oakland A’s, is in a Louisiana hospital and on a ventilator because of the coronavirus. Garrison, 54, “is fighting hard and making small milestones,” his fiancee, Nikki Trudeaux, posted on Twitter. . . . Garrison was the Vancouver Canadians’ manager in 2001, when they played their second season in the Class-A Northwest League. . . .


Here’s the Thought of the Day from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, this one via H.L. Mencken: “It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.”


Don Hay is back at his Kamloops home for the offseason and is hoping that his time in PortlandPortland isn’t anywhere near over. On Tuesday, Hay told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week that he is hoping for a third season as an assistant coach with the Winterhawks. . . . “I’m on a year-to-year contract and that’s OK,” Hay, the winningest head coach in WHL history, told Hastings. “I’d like to go back for another year and see how our team does. I’ve enjoyed working with (general manager/head coach) Mike Johnston and (associate coach) Kyle Gustafson. I’m looking forward to another year.” . . . It was almost two years ago when Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, announced at a rather bizarre news conference that Hay was retiring. Hay wasn’t at that news conference and, in fact, one day later he addressed the media and made it clear that he wasn’t ready for retirement. . . . If you click right here, you will find the column that Hastings wrote almost two years ago that summed up the situation awfully well. . . .


The Toronto Blue Jays jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, but had to go to extra innings for an 8-7 victory. . . . Bo Bichette got the GWRBI when he hit into a fielder’s choice in the 11th inning. . . . The Blue Jays had opened the season by losing their first five games. . . . Toronto also made a roster move, sending down LHP Thomas Pannone and adding LHP Marc Rzepczynski. . . . It’s all part of a simulated season being played out by the gang at Strat-O-Matic. It’s all right here, including boxscores, leaders and standings.



The Western Lacrosse Association has postponed the start of its 2020 season. The WLA’s 52nd regular season was scheduled to begin on May 21. The seven-team WLA features the Burnaby Lakers, Coquitlam Adanacs, Langley Thunder, Maple Ridge Burrards, Nanaimo Timbermen, New Westminster Salmonbellies and Victoria Shamrocks. . . .


Blazers lay off office staff, hockey side takes pay cuts . . . Canada not sending any teams to Olympics, Paralympics . . .

Taking Note was told Sunday afternoon that the Kamloops Blazers laid off their office Kamloops1staff on Friday afternoon and that those on the hockey staff have taken pay cuts. . . . The WHL’s regular-season was suspended on March 12 and cancelled on March 18. The Blazers finished atop the B.C. Division. . . . The league continues to hope that it will be able to get in some kind of playoff season, leading into the Memorial Cup in Kelowna, May 22-31. . . . Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, is the Blazers’ majority owner. Also in the ownership group are Shane Doan, Jerome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor, all of them ex-Blazers and former NHL players. . . . I don’t know if any of the WHL’s other 21 teams have followed suit, but it’s expected that other teams will be experiencing layoffs, perhaps as soon as this week. . . .


The International Ice Hockey Federation has cancelled the 2020 world men’s hockey championship that was scheduled for Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland, from May 8-24. . . . As well, the IIHF has postponed its annual Congress, which was to have been held during the tournament, until further notice. . . . As for the possibility of playing the championship in Switzerland next year, the IIHF statement read: “The potential scenario of a postponement of the World Championship in Switzerland to another year is a matter that must be discussed within the congress given the fact that the host countries for the forthcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are fixed until Year 2025. Therefore, such a decision will not be forthcoming until congress is next in session.” . . .



Next up on the postponement/cancellation calendar? It seems highly doubtful that the Olympic Summer Games will be held as scheduled — in Tokyo, from July 24 through Aug. 9. . . . Too many world-class athletes aren’t able to train in the proper places while surrounded by necessary support staff to allow these Games to be held. . . . However, the IOC says it is going to continue to play the waiting game, for at least the next four weeks. . . .

That story took a turn on Sunday night when the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) announced that they “have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.” . . . A news release continued: “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.” . . . Good on the COC and CPC for ending the uncertainty. . . . It will be interesting to see if this opens the floodgates to other countries withdrawing. . . .

——

Here’s Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “The International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee continue to guarantee that the Olympics will be held on schedule, four months from now. Sorry, God, those are powerful people, you have no choice but to end the virus pronto. . . . The IOC has no Plan B. That is so optimistic and bold! And dumb as a senile gerbil.” . . .


Washing


The Ottawa Senators announced on Saturday that they now have a second player who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The Senators made a trip through California, from March 6-12. Eight people who were on that trip now have been tested, with two positive results. . . . From a news release: “The total number of people who travelled with the club is 52, including players, staff, media, guests and flight crew. Of those on the trip, 44 have shown no symptoms, eight people have been tested, and two positive results were received. We are awaiting the results from tests that took place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.” . . .


ICYMI, the Baltimore Ravens traded DE Chris Wormley to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday, marking the first trade between the AFC North teams this century. As Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times put it: “So see, folks, there is still hope for peace in the Middle East.” . . .


Here’s Bob Molinaro, in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “Don’t mean to be callous, but postponement or cancellation of the Tokyo Games wouldn’t ruin the summer. We got along fine without the Olympics the past three summers, didn’t we?” . . .


Area51


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has been spending his days revisiting works by a handful of writers, then offering a thought for the day. . . . Here’s one, from Will Rogers: “The man with the best job in the country is the Vice-President. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How is the President?’ ” . . . On Saturday, he offered up another gem from Will Rogers: “You know, horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.” . . . On Sunday, it came from Mark Twain: “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” . . .

——

Here is the curmudgeonly one again: “If there are no restarts in U.S. sports over the next month, the best I can look forward to is the beginning of the Mongolian National Premier League — that’s soccer don’t you know — in April. (Just so you know, Ulaanbaatar City is the defending champion there.)”

——

The Sports Curmudgeon passes along a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: “Dentist — A person to whom you provide boat payments as a way of thanking him for sending a shooting pain through your entire central nervous system.” . . .



Cleaning


Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports: “What a few months it’s been for Boston, huh? (Mookie) Betts traded. NHL season postponed with the Bruins in first place. Tom Brady leaves. Jayston Tatum turns three years older than 19. Marcus Smart gets the coronavirus. Now (Chris) Sale’s elbow is busted. When are Boston sports teams ever going to catch a break?”


QB Philip Rivers has signed with the Indianapolis Colts, getting a nifty $25 million for one season. But, as Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, points out: “With nine kids, Rivers and his wife need two houses to comply with restrictions on gatherings over 10 people.”


Trump

Memorial Cup in June? Who knows? . . . Gallivan, Irvin stand test of time. Oh, do they! . . . Social distancing is the thing


The Memorial Cup, a four-team tournament for the CHL championship, is scheduled for Kelowna, May 22-31. If it is held, the tournament will include the host Rockets and the OHL, QMJHL and WHL champions. . . . Bob McKenzie, the godfather of TSN’s Insiders, reported Thursday that the Rockets “have secured the ice for June if the Memorial Cup needs to be moved back a month. And they’re also working on hotel blocks just in case. No one is necessarily optimistic but all options are still on the table for the Memorial Cup.” . . .

Interestingly, as is noted in the tweet below from Kevin Shaw, the first game of the 1919 Memorial Cup — the first time the trophy was contested — was played on March 19, 1919.



Not many, if any, WHL players appear to have been made available to the media since the league shut down on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kamloops Blazers, though, made captain Zane Franklin available for a chat with Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week. Franklin, who was busy helping Mom bake cookies on the family’s farm, was, well, frank as he usually is during the conversation, even explaining that he and his teammates “were all a little worried because we were in that area where it was getting bad” during a road swing into Washington state a few days before the shut down. “It was kind of nerve-racking, but we saw we were healthy, so were weren’t too worried after that. I’m as healthy as I can be.” . . . The whole piece is right here.


Irvin 2
On a cool day in November 1988, Dick Irvin (right) tells me about growing up in central Regina. (Photo: Patrick Pettit/Regina Leader-Post)

If you were like me on Thursday afternoon, you were flipping channels and stumbled the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders playing Game 6 of the 1983 Prince of Wales Conference final on Sportsnet. . . . The Islanders, behind four goals from Mike Bossy, beat the visiting Bruins, 8-4, to win the series, 4-2. . . . Oh, the 30 minutes I was able to watch were glorious. . . . The great Danny Gallivan calling the play and the observant Dick Irvin providing colour/analysis from right beside him. It was glorious. . . . Of course, you notice the all-white boards and a playing surface interrupted only by lines necessary for the game to be played. . . . There were a handful of players without helmets, and Butch Goring of the Islanders wearing his infamous Spaps helmet. . . . The goaltenders — Billy Smith of the Islanders and Pete Peeters of the Bruins — looked to be half of the size of today’s behemoths. . . . And, well, I’m thinking that today’s players, on the whole, are much better skaters than those from days of yore. . . . BTW, the Islanders also got goals from Goring, Brent Sutter, Bryan Trottier and Wayne Merrick. . . . Rick Middleton, with two, Craig MacTavish and Ray Bourque scored for the Bruins. . . .

Hearing Irvin’s voice brought back memories of a cool November day in 1988 when he visited Regina while promoting his book, Now Back To You Dick. Leader-Post photographer Patrick Pettit, sports writer Rob Vanstone and I met Irvin in central Regina and we strolled around the neighbourhood in which Irvin had spent his childhood. . . . “I don’t get teary-eyed or sentimental thinking about Regina,” Irvin said at the time. “I still come back. It’s not like I’ve been away 20 years.” . . . Irvin, then 56, had moved to Montreal in 1951. His father, Dick Sr., spent 27 seasons as an NHL coach — 14 with the Canadiens. . . . The family home, built by Dick Sr. in 1921, had been demolished in 1985. By the time we visited the area, there wasn’t any sign of the pigeons, chickens and show dogs that had been raised in the backyard. . . . “I’m glad I wasn’t walking down the street when the wreckers came in,” Irvin said.



Not only has the Winnipeg-based Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League cancelled the remainder of its season, but, as Kelly Moore of radio station CJOB reports, it has had to postpone its 50th anniversary gala and awards dinner that was scheduled for May 13. . . . Moore reported that the decision to end the season came “moments before last Thursday’s opening game of the MMJHL McKenzie Cup playoffs between the St. Vital Victorias and Fort Garry/Fort Rouge Twins at the St. Vital Arena.” According to Moore: “The players had actually warmed up, on-ice officials were ready to go, and fans were in the stands when both teams were advised the game was not going to be played.”



If your are a follower of the PGA Tour, you should know that the next scheduled stop is the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, May 21-24. . . . The first major of the season, now that the Masters has been bumped, is the U.S. Open that is scheduled for Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., June 18-21.



Hey, I don’t know where the puck is, but I’m thinking these are the hottest sweaters I saw this hockey season. Yikes, these are good!

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering how Canucks fans are taking things . . .

Scattershooting

Heavyweight Deontay Wilder blamed his loss to Tyson Fury on a 40-pound costume that he wore into the ring for the introductions. Said it took all the zip out of his legs. What did Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, think of that excuse? “And women are going, ‘40 pounds? Meh, that’s the weight of my small purse,’ ” she wrote.



Patti Dawn Swansson, aka The River City Renegade, is of the opinion that there is “a very real human element” to the David Ayres story. “He has one of his mom’s kidneys, you see,” Swansson writes, “and his new-born celebrity allows Ayres to raise awareness and funds for a disease that, according to the National Kidney Foundation, causes more deaths in the U.S. than breast or prostate cancer. One in 10 Canadians has kidney disease, and I happen to be among them. I’m at Stage 4, and there’s no cure for the silent killer. Not surprisingly, though, the kidney angle is too often an afterthought in the telling of the Ayres tale, because who thinks about their kidneys until they go on the fritz?” . . . You can read The River City Renegade right here.

——

One more from Swansson: “Wow, CBS will be paying Tony Romo $17 million to flap his gums during National Football League games next season. Hmmm, I wonder how much it would take for Fox to get Terry Bradshaw to stop talking.”


Honey


Scott Ostler in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Hey, NFL, let’s just make your season an even 30 games. That would really jack up the income of the owners and the salaries of the players . . . for one season. Then every player would be injured or dead, and the league would fold. But let’s not dwell on the down side.

“It’s called greed. NFL owners simply can’t get enough money, and players can’t resist a slight pay hike, even if it costs them dearly in terms of injuries and shortened careers. Richard Sherman’s lonely voice of sanity was drowned out by the merry cha-chinging of the cash register.”


“It’s February 28,” wrote Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, on Thursday. “Not sure what we’re going to call Donald Trump’s coronavirus strategy. Alas ‘March Madness’ is already taken.”


Onion


There was a time when Brandi Brodsky was the vice-president of business with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. . . . There were good times and there were bad times — a house that was egged, needing an escort from the press box to the office, having to lock the office door with the team on the road. . . . She talks about all that and more on Hartley Miller’s Cat Scan, a podcast that is right here.


Gillian Kemmerer, who blogs at The Caviar Diplomat, sat down with Scotty Bowman on the day of the NHL trade deadline. Most of the conversation was about Russian hockey and players, and it’s well worth reading. It’s all right here.


D Ty Smith had eight points on Friday night, leading his Spokane Chiefs to a 9-2 WHL victory over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The Spokane Spokesman-Review posted five brief paragraphs — not one containing a quote from Smith — about the game on its website. . . . On Saturday, the host Chiefs beat the Tri-City Americans, 4-3 in a shootout. This game got seven paragraphs. . . . You don’t suppose that the Spokesman-Review has stopped sending writers and photographers to Chiefs’ home games, do you? If so, what’s up with that?


“Ever notice,” writes Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, “that there are no grammar-checking editors anywhere in radio or television, including talk-show hosts? Thus, the steady stream of ‘would have gave,’ ‘should have went,’ ‘as we seen,’ ‘that’s what he do,’ and other fractured offerings. No need to get upset; nobody else is. Apparently, it’s absolutely fine.”



JUST NOTES: Al Strachan, who spent a lot of years covering the NHL and was a regular on Hockey Night in Canada, has a new book on the way. Hot Stove: The Untold Stories of the Original Hockey Insiders is to be released on Nov. 17, just in time for Christmas. . . . Former WHL F Carter Rigby will return as head coach of the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes, who didn’t qualify for the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs this season. Rigby stepped in has the Coyotes’ head coach in December. . . . ICYMI, the Vancouver Canucks went east and lost to the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets, blowing a late 3-1 lead in the latter game on Sunday. They aren’t rioting in the streets of Vancouver — yet — but the panic is running in the streets like so much rain water.

Scattershooting on a Thursday night after noticing the Vees went Ho-Ho-Ho in Game 1 . . .

Scattershooting

By now you’ve likely seen the ugly video of the fight in which F Kale Kessy, a former WHL scrapper now with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, was KO’d. . . . If you haven’t seen it, find it, watch it and then tell me why fighting needs to be a part of hockey. . . . If you’re wondering, Kessy spent Tuesday night in hospital and was released on Wednesday. . . . According to the Bears, Kessy now is sidelined with an “upper-body injury.” Yeah, I bet.

——


Headline at The Onion: Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Horrified To Learn Madison Bumgarner Risking Health as Baseball Pitcher.


You don’t see something like this happen every day in the world of hockey. . . . Jeff Dubois, the general manager and head coach of the junior B Comox Valley Glacier Kings of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, is leaving to take over as commissioner of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The KIJHL is a 22-team junior B circuit in the interior of B.C. . . . Dubois stepped in as the Glacier Kings’ head coach during an October shuffle. . . . He will move into the commissioner’s chair, replacing Larry Martel, on May 1. . . . Dubois spent three seasons as GM/head coach the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thunder Cats, and was the league’s coach of the year for 2016-17. . . . Martel had been commissioner since June 2018 when he took over on an interim basis from longtime president Bill Ohlhausen. . . . The KIJHL’s news release is right here.



Former WHLer Jake Toporowski is to make his head-coaching debut tonight (Friday) with the Quad City Storm meeting the host Evansville Thunderbolts in a Southern Professional Hockey League game. . . . Head coach Dave Pszenyczny, the Storm’s head coach, drew a one-game suspension for the actions of his players late in a game against the Fayetteville Marksmen on Feb. 16. . . . BTW, Toporowski is to turn 22 on Friday. . . . “I always wanted to have a head coaching job,” Toporowski told Bobby Metcalf of the Quad-City Times,”so there’s got to be a first game at some point.” . . . Toporowski played three seasons (2014-17) with the Chiefs, then retired after playing one game in 2017-18. Injuries had limited him to 36 games in 2016-17,


The New York Yankees owe OF Giancarlo Stanton more than US$200 million through 2027. Stanton, who rooms with the injury bug, has been on the injury list six times in his career. In nine seasons, he has played fewer than 125 games five times. That includes last season when he got into 17 regular-season games. . . . You guessed it. He’s hurt again, this time with a Grade 1 calf strain that likely will have him on the shelf when this season starts.


Fishing


The SJHL’s Melville Millionaires didn’t waste any time putting this season behind them as they fired Kyle Adams, the general manager and head coach, on Tuesday. . . . Jarett Waldbauer, the assistant coach and assistant GM, now is the interim GM and head coach. . . . With three games remaining in the regular season, the Millionaires are 15-34-6, good for fourth in the four-team Viterra Division. . . . Adams was in his first full season as GM/head coach after signing a two-year contract in April. He had joined the club as an assistant coach early in 2018-19, then moved up to interim GM/head coach in December 2018.



In a column suggesting that it’s time for a “de-escalation of in-game technology” in Major League Baseball, Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

“The aim of my campaign is not to stop analytics. That ship has sailed and it can’t be squeezed back into the toothpaste tube. Let the numbers jockeys have their fun, but once the game starts, let’s mix in a little baseball with our video-gamery, shall we?”

Ostler says he is on a crusade “to inject some baseball back into baseball.”

Ostler also took time to add this:

“While I’m at it, I also advocate a ban on cell-phone use by fans seated in the first five rows behind home plate. Hello, you rich, cool people! Many of us watching the game on TV cling to a romantic fantasy that a fan blessed with amazing seats that the rest of us would kill to sit in is actually, you know, watching the freaking baseball game.”

Bingo!


Parrot


JUST NOTES: Craig MacTavish is back in the coaching game, this time has head coach of Lausanne HC, which dumped Ville Peltonen. MacTavish began this season as the head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL, but was fired eight games into the season. Lausanne HC plays in the National League, Switzerland’s top pro league. . . . Brantt Myhres, a former WHL enforcer who totalled 137 points and 1,025 penalty minutes in 241 games, has a book in the works, and that’s one I will be sure to read. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction, and now has been sober for more than 11 years. . . . The BCHL’s Penticton Vees opened the playoffs Thursday night with a 7-1 victory over the visiting West Kelowna Warriors. What was different about this one? F Tyler Ho, who had 13 goals in 42 regular-season games, scored three times, each one of them with his side shorthanded. . . .

I have access to six TSN channels. On Thursday evening, five of them were blacked out because Canadian NHL teams were playing and only folks in each region are permitted to watch. One Sportsnet channel, featuring the Calgary Flames, also was blacked out. But, hey, we could watch the Dallas Stars and the Bruins play in Boston. . . . I need someone to explain to me how keeping Canadian teams off Canadian TV screens helps grow the game. . . . On Wednesday night, the Edmonton Oilers played the host Vegas Golden Knights. You will be aware that Edmonton’s lineup includes Connor McDavid, perhaps the best player in the game today, and Leon Draisaitl, who is right up there, too. But — you guessed it! — the game was blacked out too.

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while realizing Dave Ayres is getting more than 15 minutes . . .

Scattershooting

The sporting world was still abuzz on Sunday, the day after the night when goaltender Dave Ayres, 42, came on in relief in his NHL debut and helped the Carolina Hurricanes to a 6-3 victory over the host Toronto Maple Leafs.

What I find most interesting in Ayres’ post-game world is that so many writers have made a bigger deal about his being a Zamboni driver than the fact that he underwent a kidney transplant.

Time after time, you will read something like this: “Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver . . .” And, later, you’ll see this: “Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant . . .”

This is why the renal community continues to work hard on educating people on things like this — yes, Ayres underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, but he still has kidney disease. There isn’t a cure for kidney disease. Once you’ve got it, there’s no divorce. Dialysis is a treatment. A transplant is a treatment.

Ayres, whose transplanted kidney came from his mother, will be on anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, I look forward to someone doing a story on how Ayres dealt with kidney disease, dialysis and the early days after his transplant.

Ayres flew into New York City on Sunday evening. On Monday, the Hurricanes have Ayres lined up for media hits with the likes of NBC’s Today Show, Golic & Wingo on ESPN Radio/ESPN 2, Fox & Friends, CBS Sports Radio, Dan Patrick Show, Dan Le Batard Show and CNN World Sport.

Later Monday, Ayres will head for Raleigh, N.C., where the Hurricanes are to meet the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. Besides being saluted by the team and its fans, Ayres will serve as the pre-game Siren Sounder.

On top of that, Mary-Ann Baldwin, the mayor of Raleigh, as proclaimed Tuesday as David Ayres Day.

Immediately after the game, the Hurricanes announced that t-shirts with their logo on the front and Ayres’ name and number (90) on the back were for sale — at US$28 a pop. At one point on Sunday, sales went over 4,000. A portion of the proceeds are to go to a kidney foundation of his choosing.

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Once a year, I join a few friends for an evening of sports trivia. As luck would have it, our 2020 gathering took place on Friday night.

One of the questions asked was this: “Who is the oldest rookie in NHL regular-season history?” . . . The answer was D Connie (Mad Dog) Madigan, who played his first NHL game with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6, 1973. He was 38 years and four months old when he played in a 3-3 tie with the Montreal Canadiens.

While that was the correct answer on Friday, it wouldn’t have been just 24 hours later. The answer now is G Dave Ayres, who made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night at the age of 42 years 194 days. Ayres underwent a kidney transplant in 2004.

BTW, the record-holder before Madigan came along was F Bob Barlow, who made his NHL debut with the Minnesota North Stars at the age of 34 on Oct. 12, 1969.

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If you are at all into hockey history, you will want to read this piece right here from puckstruck.com. It chronicles the NHL career of Morrie Roberts, who like Dave Ayres also served as an EBUG. However, that was in 1928.


Road


A couple of questions from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “With the spectre of opposing pitchers plunking Houston Astros hitters at a record rate over the team’s sign-stealing scandal, just have to ask: Will Houston’s promotional giveaways include Astros Replica Jersey Night, sponsored by Target? By season’s end, will Houston — not Boston — be laying claim to the title of ‘Bean Town’?”


Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News: “It is interesting that the same people who thought drug cheating in baseball was just the cost of doing business now seem to think that sign-stealing cheating is the crime of the century. At least we might have a possible new baseball novel come out of this whole mess: ‘Bang the Can Slowly’.”


Turkey


Greg Robinson, an offensive lineman who played last season with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, was arrested earlier in the week near the U.S.-Mexico border. Among other things, he had 157 pounds of week in his vehicle. As Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports noted: “(Police) also found 23 mason jars, a can sealing machine, an electronic scale and over $3,000 in cash. It would seem that either there was some entrepreneurship going on or Robinson was on his way to the greatest party ever.” . . . WR Quan Bray, last of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, was with Robinson at the time. Whoops! . . . As the afore-mentioned Perry put it about Bray: “So much for trying to shake his reputation as just a possession receiver.”


There had been reports that the QMJHL’s board of governors would vote during a Thursday meeting on whether to ban fighting. Stephane Leroux of RDS reported Thursday afternoon that the vote wouldn’t take place.

Michael Roy of Radio-Canada reported that “there was no vote, but a lot of discussion.” Roy also tweeted that “the file will be on the menu . . . at a meeting in August.”

A story carrying a Canadian Press byline included this quote from Gilles Courteau, the QMJHL’s commissioner: “My main goal is to implement new rules to improve player safety. That’s the focal point of this discussion. Whether it’s fighting, blind-side hits, head shots, we’re carefully looking at all of that.”

It also included this from Sherbrooke Phoenix general manager Ronald Thibault: “It may sound strange, but what we’re trying to do is keep our players safe. There are divergent opinions on how to protect players. That’s it.”

Of course, if they really were that concerned about player safety, you would ban fighting. So would the other two major junior leagues— the WHL and the OHL.

The complete CP story is right here.

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On the topic of fighting in major junior hockey, here is part of a blog entry by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:

“Junior hockey does not believe the debate is at all nuanced when it comes to paying its players a living wage. All three major junior leagues are very clear on that one. But when it comes to their ‘student athletes’ giving and receiving bareknuckle punches to the head it suddenly becomes a vexing dilemma for them?

“Like any other league, the QMJHL could have easily increased the penalties for fighting. Actually, it’s a lot easier for one of Canada’s three junior leagues to do it because none of them has to deal with a players’ association or go through the approval of a rules committee. The omnipotent rule they hold over these young men is astounding, so perhaps it’s time they used it for something good.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.


Marriage


Have I mentioned how much I love The Sports Curmudgeon, aka Jack Finarelli? After the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers moved on from head coach John Beilein just 54 games into his stay, the curmudgeonly one pointed out that the Cavs have a 130-318 record (.290) in recent times without LeBron James. TSC then came up with three possible explanations as to why things are so rotten in Cleveland, which, you may recall, also is home to the NFL’s Browns: “Something in the Cleveland water supply causes coaches to fail . . . An ancient civilization hexed the land there for eternity. . . . Ownership for the two franchises is well short of competency.” . . . As he put it: “You make the call . . .”


The Oakland A’s won’t have any of their games available on a Bay Area radio station this season, as they become the first team in Major League Baseball to make such a move. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, team president Dave Kaval has said, among other things, “we’re excited” and “we’re trying to be innovative” and “we’re . . . trying to attract younger fans” and “I think this is the direction of the future.” . . . If you live in the San Francisco/Oakland area, games will be available via streaming and they will be on some radio stations outside the area. . . . “It’s a big win,” Kaval said. . . . “No,” wrote Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins. “Try two other words: colossal failure.”



JUST NOTES: Is there a better anthem singer anywhere in the sporting world than Lauren Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers? All she does is sing, without any of the extras. . . . Chris Speier, a flash from the past for followers of the Montreal Expos, is on manager Dusty Baker’s staff with the Houston Astros. Speier has signed on as a “quality control coach.” With the mess surrounding the Astros, Speier is likely to have lots on his plate. . . . The Toronto Blue Jays opened their spring training schedule with games on Saturday, against the New York Yankees, and Sunday (Minnesota Twins). Both games were on Sportsnet, which picked up the feeds from the Yankees and Twins rather than have their own crew in place. Interesting?