While the sun was shining in Lake Tahoe and forcing the longest first intermission in NHL history on Saturday afternoon, the U of Saskatchewan’s athletic department was dropping a bombshell.
It wasn’t long after Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted that Mike Babcock’s hiring as the U of Saskatchewan’s men’s hockey coach would be announced “next week” when the school made it official.
Dave Hardy, the Huskies’ chief athletics officer, said in a news release that the 57-year-old Babock, who is from Saskatoon, “will lead the Huskies on a full-time volunteer basis for the next two seasons.”
Dreger later tweeted that Babcock “will coach one season, but is heavily involved in hiring an assistant coach to work with him next season before taking over the program the following year.”
Earlier in the week, Hardy told Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that he had heard from “less than 100 and more than 50” people interested in the vacancy. Hardy said that he hoped to hire someone before April 1.
“It’s a real challenge for our search committee to narrow that down but we’ll do that sort of collaboratively over the next three or four weeks,” Hardy told Zary. “We’ll have a very qualified coach by March 31.”
Babcock, who is to move into his new position in May, takes over from Dave Adolph, the team’s 27-year head coach who announced his retirement on Dec. 7 and will leave on May 1.
Babcock, a defenceman, played one season (1981-82) with the Huskies and one with the WHL’s Kelowna Wings before spending three seasons at McGill U in Montreal. He later coached at Red Deer College (1988-91) and with the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns (1993-94), winning a national title there. He also coached in the WHL for eight seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors (1991-93) and Spokane Chiefs (1994-2000). . . . As an NHL coach, he won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings (2007-08) and two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada (2010, 2014).
This season, he has been helping out as a volunteer senior advisor with the U of Vermont Catamounts, and he recently began working with NBC Sports as an NHL analyst.
Babcock was fired as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 20, 2019. He was in his fifth season there. When he was dumped, what was an eight-year, US$50-million contract had almost three years left on it. At the time, Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported that Babcock’s contract with Toronto “had a $3M signing bonus then $5.875M salary every year evenly through 2022-23.”
There since have been allegations that he verbally abused players, in particular Mitch Marner with the Maple Leafs and Johan Franzen in Detroit.
“… will lead the Huskies on a full-time volunteer basis…”
Something about “volunteer basis” rubs me the wrong way
Is Babcock purposely doing this so TOR keeps paying him?
Is UofS exploiting a loophole to be cheap/not give someone else deserving an opportunity/paycheque? https://t.co/IDEs4P0lPI
The 15-team AJHL, which hasn’t played since Nov. 21, announced Friday that it has received government approval to resume its season. Specific dates apparently haven’t yet been set, but the league said training camps are to open “at the start of March” with games to begin at some point after that. If all goes well, games will be played on weekends through the end of May. . . . The news release didn’t mention a format but there have been reports that teams play be placed in three-game cohorts and play 24 games. . . . The league says that “players, coaches and support staff are currently self-isolating in preparation” for training camps. Players will be free to move on to camps after two negative tests. After that, a positive test will sideline a team for at least 14 days. . . . At this point, there won’t be any fans allowed to attend games. . . . The last line of the AJHL news release reads: “An update league schedule and a list of participating teams will be announced shortly.” By Saturday afternoon there was speculation that as many as three teams may opt outof the resumption of play. . . . Before suspending play in November, the AJHL had experienced positive tests on at least five teams — the Canmore Eagles, Calgary Canucks, Drumheller Dragons, Olds Grizzlies and Whitecourt Wolverines.
The day before the AJHL announced that it was going to get in some games in the next while, the BCHL revealed that “multiple members” of the Prince George Spruce Kings have tested positive. . . . “At this point,” the BCHL news release reads, “the affected team members and all close contacts have been placed in a 14-day quarantine and anyone showing symptoms will be tested as soon as possible.” . . . The BCHL closed off with: “For the privacy of the people affected, we will have no further comment at this time.” . . . Brendan Pawliw of myprincegeorgenow.com reported that “several members” of the team had tested positive and that “all other billet families, team personnel and staff have been instructed to self-monitor for symptoms and to arrange for a test if symptoms arise.” . . . Pawliw also reported that “general manager Mike Hawes told MyPGNow.com he will not be commenting further on the issue.” . . . The Prince George Citizen reported that “general manager Mike Hawes has been told by the league not to reveal any other information.” . . . You may recall that Andrew Milne, the general manager and head coach of the Canmore Eagles, was hit with a 15-game suspension and fined $1,000 for talking to the media in December after his team was hit by an outbreak.
The Calgary Hitmen have cleared the first hurdle and now are OK to begin on-ice workouts. The Hitmen didn’t get back any positives from 59 tests from Feb. 13 through Friday as they set up shop at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut’ina National near Calgary. . . .
Meanwhile, Regan Bartel, the radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, reported that Adrian Dix, B.C.’s health minister, said Friday that the WHL’s 65-page return-to-play proposal “has been received and (is) being reviewed by the provincial health office. We are working on the plan and we will be responding the plan soon.” The plan apparently was received on Feb. 2, although Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said earlier in the week that officials ““haven’t received an updated proposal in the last few weeks.”
Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle writes some truth:
“Women’s tennis reached its contemporary pinnacle when Serena Williams met Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semifinals, and they played it like champions: quietly and with dignity, save those moments of exultation. Somehow, the WTA’s godawful noise machine grinds on with two of the top players, Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza, right at the forefront. Every stroke brings a deafening shriek, as if there’s a gruesome crime in progress. As such, they leave no pleasant memories. They’re just passing through the sport.”
The Port Moody Amateur Hockey Association has cancelled all team activities after learning of four positive tests among its membership. . . . According to a statement on the PMAHA website, it became aware of single positives on Feb. 4 and Feb. 9, and two on Feb. 10. . . . It acted on Feb. 10 to pause all activities. Before this, teams were allowed to practice under certain restrictions.
Health experts say Washington’s on-field/on-court safety plan to play high school sports is relatively thorough, but the lack of COVID-19 testing and an honor-based health screening system leave plenty to chance. (from @GeoffBakerTIMES) https://t.co/4MClgIGfWR
The eight-school Ivy League announced Friday that it won’t be holding any spring sports in 2021. The Ivy League Council of Presidents said the decision had been made “because of ongoing public health concerns related to COVID-19.”
33% of adults in the U.S .are at risk for kidney disease and most don't know it, including those living with type 2 diabetes. Does that include you? Take the Kidney Risk Quiz to find out if you're the 33% today. #MinuteForYourKidneys
Two things about Super Bowl LV — 1. QB Tom Brady was solid for Tampa Bay, but it was the Buccaneers’ defence that was great, dominating an offensive line that was forced to play two backup tackles; Brady should at least share the MVP award with defensive co-ordinator Todd Bowles; 2. It’s amazing how many comedians come of the woodwork and do their thing on social media during major sporting events. What did they do before social media? Try out their lines on their dogs?
Montreal Gazette headline — Former Montreal Expos draft pick wins Super Bowl, named MVP
Allow me to remember an old friend by pointing out that Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl on the 16th anniversary of the death of Bob Turner, a former NHL defenceman, who was part of five consecutive Stanley Cup championships (1956-60) with the Montreal Canadiens. He also won a Memorial Cup, coaching the Regina Pats to the 1974 title in the Calgary Corral.
The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced Saturday that it has cancelled the remainder of its 2020-21 season. The league last had games played on Nov. 20. . . . The decision to cancel was made after B.C. provincial health officials said Friday that restrictions presently in force will remain in place at least through month’s end. . . . Here’s Jeff Dubois, the KIJHL commissioner, in a news release: “As we approach March and April, we are faced with the reality of arenas removing their ice for the spring and summer, and that leaves us unable to plan for a meaningful conclusion to our season.” . . . Also from the news release: “KIJHL clubs will have the option to continue to train under the current PHO guidelines, and the possibility remains that exhibition games may be played if restrictions are relaxed in the future.” . . . The Kamloops Storm and Kelowna Chiefs both have said they will go on training. . . . The KIJHL features 18 teams, with 17 of them in B.C. The Spokane Braves didn’t start the season because of the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel. . . . There are two other junior B leagues in B.C. — the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and the Pacific Junior Hockey League. Both remain on pause. The nine-team VIJHL hasn’t played since Nov. 20; the 13-team PJHL last played on Nov. 7.
You can substitute any other sport for baseball and the premise of this quote is still bang on. The worst thing that ever happened to kids in sport is when adults decided to introduced the term “revenue generation”. https://t.co/mBVXvIRIxn
Headline at TheOnion.com: Charles Barkley blasts today’s fragile NBA players who can’t just play through COVID like he did.
By now you will have heard that some players, including LeBron James, aren’t at all pleased with the NBA’s plan to hold an all-star game in Atlanta on March 7. Here’s Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, explaining things: “A meaningless exhibition game during a pandemic. Gue$$ the league ha$ it$ rea$on$.”
On the subject of money, here’s a gem from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi’s four-year contract he agreed to in 2017 would have netted him $168.5 million a season if all incentives had been met. That pencils out to roughly $3.7 million per goal.”
So . . . you wake up every morning wondering: What’s wrong with the Vancouver Canucks? Well, they were mediocre last season and then let their starting goaltender, two good defencemen and a scoring forward go elsewhere. I also would suggest that the goaltender and one of those defencemen were two of the team leaders. Looks to me like they haven’t filled those holes in the roster to this point. But, yeah, let’s get rid of the coach.
For all our former players who watched me show clips of Tom Brady over the years – now you know why!🏈
Two former WHL forwards — Dylan Cozens and Curtis Lazar — were added to the Buffalo Sabres’ COVID-19 protocol list on the weekend. The Sabres now have eight players on the list, and let’s not forget that head coach Ralph Krueger is in quarantine after testing positive. . . . The Sabres’ facility has been closed since Tuesday. They next are scheduled to play Thursday and Saturday against the visiting Washington Capitals. . . .
As of Sunday, the NHL had 46 players on the protocol list. . . . That included D Travis Sanheim of the Philadelphia Flyers, who is another WHL grad. . . . Sanheim practised with the Flyers on Saturday, but didn’t play in Sunday’s 7-4 victory over the host Washington Capitals. From an NHL news release on Sunday: “As a result of a Philadelphia Flyers player entering the league’s COVID protocol earlier today, a decision was made by the NHL’s and NHLPA’s medical experts to have all Flyers players, coaches and staff receive POC tests in advance of this afternoon’s game vs. the Washington Capitals. After all tests returned negative, the league’s, NHLPA’s and clubs’ medical groups determined that it was appropriate to play the game.” . . . The Flyers and Capital are scheduled to meet again Tuesday in Washington. . . .
Public Health Agency of Canada, Sunday, 4 p.m. PT — 804,260 total cases . . . 44,727 active cases . . . 20,767 deaths.
CNN, Sunday, 4:27 p.m. PT — 463,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
Transplant successful. Thank you a million times Charlene Hardy. You are an angel on Earth. Oh and I got to shower today! pic.twitter.com/qhM5sWMGty
Meet my new friend Heather. She isn’t smiling because she had Tampa Bay in Sunday’s Super Bowl. No. She’s smiling because she had a kidney transplant in Edmonton on Wednesday, and she knows she’ll be on her way home early in the week. . . . Heather, who had been on dialysis since March, received a kidney from a good friend.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Today we are sending condolences to the family of Assistant Coach Brandin Cote. Brandin’s father Denis, who was a member of the 1975-76 SC Broncos of the SJHL, passed away this weekend. pic.twitter.com/zQIwqppcjG
These days, you may know Ray Ferraro as the analyst on some of TSN’s telecasts from the World Junior Championship in Edmonton. You may even
remember him from an NHL career during which he played 1,258 regular-season games and totalled 898 points, including 408 goals, with six teams. . . . But there was a time when he had the greatest goal-scoring season in WHL history. That was in 1983-84 when he was with the Brandon Wheat Kings, who had acquired him from the Portland Winterhawks with whom he had won the 1983 Memorial Cup. . . . The really interesting thing about that deal is that it was a one-for-five exchange and Ferraro wasn’t the one. The Wheat Kings acquired Ferraro, D Brad Duggan and forwards Derek Laxdal, Dave Thomlinson and Tony Horacek for C Blaine Chrest, at the time a 17-year-old prospect of note. . . . It’s not like Ferraro hadn’t scored in Portland. In 1982-83, playing mostly in a third-line role, he had 41 goals and 49 assists. A broken wrist meant that he only played 50 games. . . .
In Brandon, playing mostly on a line with wingers Stacy Pratt and, in the latter half of the season, Dave Curry, who was acquired from the Seattle Breakers, Ferraro struck for 108 goals in 72 regular-season games. What is mostly forgotten is that Ferraro finished with 192 points, then added 13 goals and 15 assists in 11 playoff games. . . . Add it all up and he wound up with 220 points, including 121 goals, in 83 games. . . . The figure that stands out, of course, is 108, because, for one thing, that’s a lot of goals. And for another thing, it will never be broken. I know, never say never, but in this instance that is a record that won’t be broken, if only because of the way the game is played today. . . .
This was a long introduction leading to a couple of stories that appeared in the Regina Leader-Post on Tuesday. Rob Vanstone of The Leader-Post spoke with Ferraro about his memorable season. . . . Ferraro, for example, remembers having scored 54 goals in 36 games by the time the 1984 World Junior Championship began in Sweden. He also remembers being disappointed, really disappointed, at not being invited to play for Team Canada. Of course, had Ferraro played for Team Canada he wouldn’t have scored 108 goals for the Wheat Kings. . . . Vanstone covers all that and more in this piece right here. . . . If you check out the photos that accompany that story, you will notice that it was a Cooperall season. . . .
Vanstone also took the time to chat with two of the goaltenders who were terrorized by Ferraro that season. . . . Doug Lunney, who was then with the Winnipeg Warriors, told Vanstone that Ferraro “was the first guy I ever saw who had the confidence and patience to slam the brakes on in mid-deke on a breakaway, then slide the puck in an open net after the goalie over-committed.” . . . Vanstone also spoke with Jamie Reeve, who faced Ferraro while with the Regina Pats. . . . That piece is right here. . . .
Ferraro broke the WHL’s single-season record of 96 goals that had been set by Brandon C Bill Derlago in 1976-77. At the time, Ferraro, who was a terrific interview, admitted the record pursuit was causing him sleepless nights.
I was at The Leader-Post at the time and wrote a lengthy feature on Ferraro that appeared in the paper of March 23, 1984.
“I tried to tell myself not to think about it because when you think about it, it’s just that much harder to get,” he told me. “It was just impossible not to think about. I’d go to bed at night — I really had a lot of trouble sleeping the last couple of weeks — and all I could think about was getting this record.
“I wanted to get it over with so I could get back to playing the type of hockey I should be playing. I noticed I was turning away from guys, trying for the poke-check and the breakaway.”
He also admitted that he was having problems comprehending his accomplishment.
“I can’t believe I’ve got this many goals,” he said. “I was coming here hoping to get 70 goals, not 38 past that. Man, that’s a lot of goals.”
Here’s a look at how many goals Ferraro scored against each of the WHL’s 13 other teams that season: Prince Albert, 10 games, 24 goals; Winnipeg, 12-21; Regina, 10-15; Saskatoon, 10-14; Lethbridge 6-7; Calgary, 6-7; Medicine Hat, 6-6; Victoria, 2-5; Kelowna, 2-3; Portland, 2-3; New Westminster, 2-2; Kamloops, 2-1; and Seattle, 2-0.
If you’re a WHL fan and have a Twitter account, you should be following John Winton (@NewWestBruins); Kevin Shaw (@theblueliner); and Victoria Cougars Hockey Project (@victoriacougars). . . . Winton posts all kinds of interesting things involving the New Westminster Bruins. . . . Shaw is always posting about Regina Pats’ history, including highlights of each date in franchise history. . . . The Victoria Cougars Hockey Project provides ample items involving that franchise’s history in the B.C. capital.
FWIW, on top of what has been reported about the QMJHL and KHL, COVID has touched almost every team in the USHL now. I’ve been told there have been more than 50 cases within one USHL program. Billet families having people over at American Thanksgiving, kids bringing it back, etc.
CBC News: Global deaths from COVID-19 top 1.8M mark: Johns Hopkins University.
CBC News: Air travellers entering Canada must have a negative COVID-19 test before arrival, Ottawa says.
CNN, Wednesday, 3 p.m. PT: 341,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Wednesday, 8:10 p.m. PT: 342,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
Ryan Struyk, CNN: The US coronavirus death toll will reach 396,000 by Inauguration Day, according to a new CDC ensemble model estimate.
Kate Feldman, New York Daily News: The United States hit another grim COVID-19 landmark Tuesday with its highest daily death toll since the pandemic started. . . . At least 3,725 Americans died Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker, more than 1,000 fatalities higher than the previous peak on Dec. 16. . . . More than 247,000 new cases were also reported Tuesday.
The New York Times: Roughly 60 percent of Ohio nursing home workers offered a coronavirus vaccine have refused to be inoculated, Gov. Mike DeWine announced at a news conference on Wednesday, citing anecdotal evidence.
The governors of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont have announced “an extension of the suspension of interstate youth hockey competitions for public and private schools and youth hockey leagues through at least Jan. 31.” . . . At the same time, “the prohibition will no impact interstate collegiate, professional or U.S. national team hockey activities, which will remain subject to existing health and safety protocols ard/or restrictions.” . . .
Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s top college football analyst, will work Friday’s Sugar Bowl — No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State — from home after testing positive. Interestingly, Herbstreit’s two sons, Jake and Tye, are redshirt freshmen with Clemson. . . .
Meanwhile, Greg McElroy of ESPN was to have worked on the telecast of the Cotton Bowl and the radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl. But he, too, has tested positive and will miss both games.
In the world of NCAA hockey, North Dakota was to have travelled to Omaha this weekend, but the doubleheader was postponed because of positives tests in the Omaha program. . . .
The Texas Bowl, that was to have featured TCU (6-4) and Arkansas (3-7), has been cancelled. It was scheduled to be held on Thursday in Houston’s NRG Stadium. . . . The decision was made “due to an increased number of positive tests and other circumstances within the TCU football program,” according to organizers. . . .
The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament that is held annually in Indian Wells, Calif., from March 8-21 has been postponed. The ATP-WTA event was cancelled last spring. Organizers are hopeful that it will be played at some point later in 2021. . . .
Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island, has died of COVID-19. She was 82 when she died in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Fred Ledlin said he was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a rookie in the Western League in the early 1980s. But 40 years later, he has found his voice. (Warning: Readers may find Ledlin's accusations very disturbing.) https://t.co/qRZ5SEFFP0
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
During Kevin Kaminski’s playing career, his nickname was ‘Killer’ and he didn’t take any prisoners. Yes, he was tough and he played hard.
These days, Kaminski is the general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves and he hasn’t changed — he still shoots from the hip, and good for him.
With the SJHL about to shut down until after Christmas because of restrictions being implemented by the Saskatchewan government and health officials, Kaminski didn’t tiptoe around the issue.
“I don’t understand how casinos and bingos, and everything else can stay open,” Kaminski told MBC Radio’s Braden Malsbury, who does the play-by-play of Ice Wolves’ games. “If you’re going to shut it down, let’s shut it down and let’s do this right. Let’s just don’t put a Band-Aid on for two weeks and then it’s going to come back again after we get a little break from it.
“I don’t understand — it would be probably pretty easy to be a health official and just make up your own rules as you go along.”
Kaminski has hit the nail squarely on the head. By not shutting things down at the first sign of trouble a couple of months ago, we find ourselves where we are today. And the way these things have been handled since March, you can almost bet that we will get to a stage where restrictions will be loosened . . . and we will end up going through all of this again.
As Kaminski said, “If you’re going to shut it down, let’s shut it down . . .”
Kaminski has every right to be disappointed, too. His Ice Wolves are playing well, having won four straight after a season-opening setback.
“I’m very disappointed, saddened for the players,” Kaminski told Malsbury.
Doug Johnson, the general manager and head coach of the Nipawin Hawks, also is sounding frustrated.
“In March, we didn’t know . . . everything was uncertain,” Johnson told Aaron Schulze of northeastNOW, referring to the 2019-20 season’s premature end. “Right now, with all the restrictions in place and protocols we followed, we were told we did nothing wrong. There’s not one case from hockey transmission within the SJHL. We have our guys following all the protocols, basically putting their social life on hold, just to get through this and make it work, and we get shut down even when we’ve done everything right. Yet, other things are able to stay open.
“It’s a double standard, 100 per cent. It has nothing to do with us not taking COVID-19 serious. We have 27 guys for three months and there’s not been one case within our locker room. Within the league, 12 teams, there’s been one case. We’ve done things right and proven it can work, but we’re getting throttled right now.
“Government makes money off their bars and casinos, the liquor and gambling. They’re not making a ton of money off the SJHL or hockey. Yet, our communities . . . the Nipawin Hawks bring in roughly $1.5 to $1.8 million into Nipawin and that’s on hold right now. The mental health of our young people . . . the outing, just a little sense of normalcy for our fans . . . the pride that the players’ parents can have watching their kids play and do what they love. We’re not lumped in the same.”
Meanwhile, Jason Tatarnic, the general manager and head coach of the Estevan Bruins, was on The Rod Pedersen Show on Thursday, and he was pretty much echoing Johnson, wondering why junior hockey gets shut down while people are still allowed to go to casinos and stores.
“”It’s definitely disappointed and very sad for our players,” Tatarnic told Pedersen. “It’s heartbreaking for them.”
Tatarnic also touched on the financial side of things, saying that these teams have a “big economic impact on all the communities. Our operating budget for each team between is between $500,000 to $1 million, probably more so in the middle of that for each team. . . . tremendous economic impact on our communities.”
As for the Bruins, Tatarnic said the organization is “probably projected to lose anywhere betwen $300,000 and $400,000 this (season) already. That’s a huge loss for anybody . . . you look at our organization . . . that’s tremendous. We have six full-time staff. You look at 12 teams . . . that’s a big impact.”
With Canada’s national junior team dealing with three positive tests at its selection camp in Red Deer, the question has to be asked: Is the 2021 World Junior Championship at risk? . . . Ilan Schwartz, an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, has told Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press that he isn’t sure bring 10 teams into an Edmonton bubble at this point in time is such a good idea. . . . “The NHL showed that it can be done, but the stops that were pulled out in order to create and maintain a bubble for the NHL playoffs were enormous,” Schwartz said. “It’s not safe for the players to be coming into a place where there’s a surge in infections. While the players themselves are going to be young and healthy and low risk of serious complications from the virus, they are still very much able to transmit it to those people around them.” . . . The tournament is scheduled to open on Dec. 25 and run through Jan. 5. . . . Infections rates now are 10 times higher in Alberta than when the NHL was concluding its playoff run in Edmonton. . . . Spencer’s story is right here.
What’s happening with Canada’s national junior team as the players at the selection camp in Red Deer are early in 14-day quarantine sessions? Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News takes a look at the situation right here.
The five-team B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League has cancelled its 2020-21 season. Earlier, the league had said that it hoped to begin on Jan. 15. . . . From a news release: “League organizers worked closely with BC Hockey and member schools in pursuing a shortened season, but with recent restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BCIHL made the decision to cancel official competition until the start of the 2021-22 season.” . . . Chris Munshaw, the BCIHL president, said: “It’s not a decision we took lightly. Many of our coaches, staff, and volunteers have been with the league since it began in 2005. More importantly, this has a big impact on the lives of our student-athletes.” . . . Also from the release: “The BCIHL’s decision does not prevent member teams from pursuing exhibition games or tournaments within the guidelines allowed by their institutions, facilities and the provincial government.” . . . The last paragraph of the release indicated that the BCIHL is continuing to prepare for a “full” 2021-22 season, “including the pursuit of league expansion.”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: 383 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Manitoba, virtually unchanged from the previous 7-day average of 386. The province is also reporting 10 additional deaths.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 299 new COVID-19 cases, which is significantly more than the province’s previous 7-day average of 209. 3 deaths are also being attributed to the virus. . . . Saskatchewan jail reports 72 new COVID-19 cases, including 68 offenders and 4 staff. There are now 85 active cases at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, which normally houses about 450 inmates. Authorities say any new admissions to the facility will be redirected.
650 CKOM Saskatoon: ICU capacity is at nearly 100 per cent in Saskatchewan, with just three available beds in Saskatoon as of today.
Jason Herring, Postmedia, Alberta: 1,077 new cases (total now 51,878); 10 new deaths (total now 510); 383 currently in hospital, 84 in ICU (yesterday: 355 in hospital, 71 in ICU); 14,052 active cases (up from 13,719 yesterday); 15,644 tests conducted (~6.9% positive); since yesterday, hospitalizations rose by eight per cent in Alberta, and ICU admissions rose by 18 per cent.
Troy Gillard, rdnewNOW: Red Deer now with 158 active cases of COVID-19.
Christopher Foulds, Kamloops This Week: COVID-19 claims another 13 lives as province announces 887 new cases, including 65 in Interior; outbreak at The Hamlets long-term care home in Kamloops declared over.
James Peters, CFJC-TV Kamloops: Interior Health says there are 374 active cases of COVID-19 in the region, with nine people in hospital including two in intensive care.
Castanet Kamloops: Assault at Dawson Creek Walmart over wearing face mask.
INFOnews Kamloops: Walmart employee in Dawson Creek assaulted by man who refused to wear mask.
INFOnews Kamloops: Police identify woman alleged to have spit on Penticton liquor store employee in mask-wearing dispute.
CBC News: Ontario reports 21 additional COVID-19 deaths and 1,478 new cases. That’s higher than the previous 7-day average of 1,389. Of the new cases, 572 are in Peel Region, 356 are in Toronto and 111 are in York Region.
CBC Quebec: Quebec is reporting 32 additional COVID-19 deaths and has diagnosed 1,464 new cases. That appears to be the largest daily number of new reported cases since May 3, and a significant jump from the province’s previous 7-day average of 1,171.
CBC News: 12 new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick. That’s higher than the average of 9 for the previous 7 days.
Alexander Quon, Global Halifax: Premier Blaine Higgs say that as off midnight anyone entering New Brunswick from another province, including Atlantic Canada, must now self isolate for 14 days. The Atlantic bubble is officially over.
CNN: 263,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus. . . . 12.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
Val-d'Or goalie Jonathan Lemieux in isolation after being in contact w/ someone who has Covid-19.
Lemieux had no contact w/ his teammates after being in contact with this person, so Foreurs will play as scheduled this weekend. https://t.co/K8HaKOiYgI
The NFL has a problem. With the Baltimore Ravens in the middle of an outbreak, the NFL moved their game with the host Pittsburgh Steelers from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon. On Thursday, it seems that the Ravens had four more players, including QB Lamar Jackson, and one staffer test positive. The Ravens have shut down their facility until at least Monday, so you have to think Sunday’s game won’t happen. . . . The Ravens really are up against it, too, because they are scheduled to face the Cowboys in Dallas in next week’s Thursday game. . . . Meanwhile, WR Larry Fitzgerald of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals tested positive and won’t play Sunday against the host New England Patriots. . . . The Cleveland Browns closed their facility on Thursday after getting their fifth positive in less than two weeks.
#Ravens QB Lamar Jackson tested positive for COVID-19, per @RapSheet. He’s out for Sunday’s game vs. Pittsburgh, assuming that game even happens as scheduled.
Like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, it seems that the Swift Current Broncos and Golden West Radio learned that they couldn’t live without each other. . . . The Broncos and Golden West have announced a deal that will put the play-by-play of the “majority” of the team’s games in the approaching season on the Eagle 94.1. . . . Craig Beauchemin will handle the play-by-play. . . . The parties weren’t able to reach an agreement prior to the 2019-20 season so the Broncos took their broadcasts online. . . . The WHL is hoping to start its next season on Jan. 8.
Dorothy and I were in Penticton, B.C., on the evening of July 24, 2015, for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner.
Here is part of what I wrote afterwards:
The legendary Fred Sasakamoose was on hand to receive the Okanagan Hockey School’s Pioneer Award.
What a wonderful moment it was as a tremendously touching video chronicling Sasakamoose’s life was played and an emotional Sasakamoose made his way to the stage.
If you aren’t aware of Sasakamoose and all that he has done, get thee to Google and prepare to spend an hour or two.
At one point, Sasakamoose spoke to what was a thoroughly captivated audience about how lonely it was being an aboriginal — he is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation — on the way to the NHL.
On this night, Sasakamoose was anything but lonely. He was on the receiving end of two emotionally charged standing ovations as he made a roomful of new friends and admirers.
That is the kind of night it was, and I will long remember being a small part of it.
Hockey Canada, we’ve got a problem!
Hockey Canada announced Tuesday morning that two players who are part of its national junior team selection camp in Red Deer have tested positive for COVID-19. Both players are in quarantine at the team hotel.
As a result, Tuesday afternoon’s Red-White game was postponed and all other activities were cancelled for the day. Ryan Rishaug of TSN reported later Tuesday that “as of now nothing is scheduled for training camp activity (Wednesday).”
Head coach Andre Tourigny had said the coaching staff wanted to trim the roster by a dozen or more players after Tuesday’s game. That obviously didn’t happen. Chances are that some players will be sent home before a scheduled exhibition game against the U of Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday.
This is Team Canada’s second brush with the virus. On Saturday, a person described as a “non-core” member of the support staff tested positive. That resulted in an undisclosed number of people going into a 14-day quarantine, including assistant coaches Michael Dyck and Jason Labarbera.
On Tuesday, after news of the two players having tested positive, Rishaug tweeted:
“A key question is, how many players will be identified as close contacts? We don’t know if the infected players were playing in the games Saturday and Sunday. All close contacts must isolate for 14 days.
“Covid has wreaked havoc on Canada’s camp to this point. 14 players were late arriving for various Covid testing related issues, including Ridly Greig testing positive before camp. He has since joined the team after his quarantine ended.
“All of this happening with the back drop of rapidly rising cases in Alberta, and news coming later today from the Premier that could involve further restrictive measures being put in place. The next few days will determine a lot on what Canada’s camp looks like moving forward.
“Players and staff were tested before arrival in Red Deer, then tested again upon arrival. A 2x per week protocol then kicked in once camp was up and running. The first positive test of a staff member came as a result of the 3rd test they had taken.”
Am told by Alberta Health that provinces new measures should not affect Hockey Canada’s training camp in Red Deer. Exemptions for sport’s activities need to be in place by Friday, but the two sides have been working together on safety protocols for some time…/
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has his take on Team Canada’s situation right here.
The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets said Tuesday they have “had several players recently test positive for the COVID-19 virus.” . . . Frank Seravalli of TSN reported that a “significant” number of Blue Jackets “have tested positive . . . over the last 7-to-10 days.” . . . The players went into quarantine and the organization’s off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena were closed “beginning the week of Nov. 16.” . . . The NHL apparently continues to have its sights set on a Jan. 1 opening. But now there are outbreaks with the Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights. . . . Seravalli also reported that “sources say multiple family members of VGK players have also tested positive.” . . . Robin Brownlee of oilersnation.com wonders right here just how realistic a Jan. 1 starting date might be.
Blaming restrictions implemented by the state of Washington and the closure of the U.S.-Canada border, the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild announced Tuesday that it is “taking a hiatus for the 2020-21 season.” . . . All Wild players now are free agents. . . . “The latest setback is not being able to train our players here in the state of Washington,” a Wild news release reads. “We are not opting out of the season we are being forced out because the United States and Canadian border are closed and (because of) the restrictions on gyms and ice arenas in the state of Washington.” . . . Kudos to Wild owner David White as Taking Note has been told that he is keeping the staff on the payroll. . . . There is a news release right here.
In the QMJHL, the Charlottetown Islanders have had to pause their schedule for at least two weeks. That’s because the Prince Edward Island government has withdrawn from the Maritime travel bubble. . . . With COVID-19 numbers rising in the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island announced Monday that they were withdrawing from the bubble for at least two weeks. That bubble had been in place since July 3. It allowed people to travel rather freely across the Maritimes provinces without quarantining. . . . P.E.I. implemented new travel restrictions on Monday at midnight; N.L. puts its restrictions in place on Wednesday. . . . On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia government also announced travel restrictions, so the QMJHL postponed seven games scheduled for this week in the Maritime Division.
The Kitchener Rangers reported a net loss of $83,736 for the 2020 fiscal year at the team’s annual general meeting tonight. First time the club has failed to record a profit in 25 years. Last year, club made $335K. https://t.co/its8qCFtcW
“A shortened season, no playoffs and a $265,000 payment for litigation fees involved in a minimum-wage lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League pushed the Kitchener Rangers into the red for the 2020 fiscal year,” writes Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record. “The Rangers announced a net deficit of $83,736 at Monday night’s virtual annual general meeting, making it the first time in the past 25 years the Ontario Hockey League club failed to record a profit.
“Last year, the team made $335,233.”
It is interesting that the Rangers apparently have written off $265,000 for the settlement of that lawsuit. In the WHL, the Moose Jaw Warriors told shareholders that they are on the hook for $180,846 as their part of the settlement, while the Prince Albert Raiders said their share was to be $166,667.
The Swift Current Broncos don’t seem to have stated a figure, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes have yet to hold their annual general meeting.
Lethbridge, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Swift Current are the 22-team WHL’s four community-owned teams. As such, they are obligated to hold annual general meetings open to shareholders.
BTW, the afore-mentioned lawsuit was thought to have been settled for $30 million, but courts in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have rejected that settlement. So negotiations no doubt are continuing.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Canadian responses to the covid second wave continue to mystify me. Why do we continue to pursue Canadian exceptionalism? Why not take the lessons from East Asia, NZ, And Aust seriously? Half measures won’t cut it and will prolong pain and uncertainty. #COVIDzero
The fact that Fred succumbed in his old age to Covid is especially sad given how much this man had to sacrifice in his life just to be treated half-way equally, yet so many are seemingly unable to sacrifice even putting on a little cloth mask at the mall during a pandemic. https://t.co/JvJdbyZFp6
CBC News: Manitoba announces 476 new cases of COVID-19, its 4th-highest daily total since the pandemic began. It follows yesterday’s record high of 543. The province is also attributing 12 more deaths to the virus.
CTV News: Manitoba issued $126,082 in tickets last week for those not following health orders.
CBC News: Saskatchewan adds 175 new coronavirus cases — 70 of them in Regina and 28 in Saskatoon zones. That’s the province’s lowest new daily case total in 4 days and is below the province’s previous 7-day average of 218.
Regina Leader-Post: After reporting 175 new cases and 112 recoveries Tuesday, Sask. government cancels afternoon press conference.
CBC News: Alberta reports 1,115 new COVID-19 cases, 16 more deaths, for a provincial case load of 13,349 active infections.
CBC News: Premier Jason Kenney declares a state of public emergency in Alberta. Imposing new restrictions on social gatherings, religious services. No indoor social gatherings permitted in any settings for a minimum of 3 weeks. Will be evaluated in mid-Dec.
Mo Cranker, Medicine Hat News: Medicine Hat is up to 103 active cases of COVID-19. There are 123 recoveries listed in MH. . . . There are 39 active cases in Cypress County. There are 40 active cases of Forty Mile. . . . There are 171 active cases in Lethbridge. Brooks is at 46 active cases of the virus.
Richard Zussman, Global BC: British Columbia has shattered the one day COVID-19 record with 941 new cases over the past 24 hours. There have been 28,348 total cases of the virus in BC. . . . There are 284 people in BC in hospital with COVID. With 61 people in ICU. The hospital number is a record. . . . Another double digit day for COVID deaths. There have been 10 deaths due to the virus over the last 24 hours. There have been 358 deaths in the province from COVID. . . . The latest positivity rate on the BC CDC website is 6.6%. On October 6th it was 1.2%.
Keith Baldrey, Global BC: BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth on Global BC tonight with a message for anti-maskers: “Grow up, shut up and mask up.” I’d say that’s fairly clear.
CBC News: B.C. health-care workers plead for public to follow COVID-19 orders.
Global News: B.C. grocery story (in Nelson) hires security guard as anti-mask hostility grows.
CBC News: Ontario’s reporting error means (Tuesday’s) total case count is artificially low. Additional data: 14 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Ontario, 534 ppl are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, 159 of them in ICU, 91 on ventilators.
CBC News: Quebec reports 45 additional deaths due to the coronavirus, also diagnoses 1,124 new cases. That’s virtually unchanged from the province’s previous 7-day average of 1,162.
CBC News: Nova Scotia reports 37 new COVID-19 cases, highest since April 23. Province announces wave of restrictions for greater Halifax area, including gathering size limits, 25% capacity cap on the number of shoppers in a store, while restaurants and bars are restricted to takeout only.
CBC News: Nunavut has 10 new cases of COVID-19. Nine are in Arviat, on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay, where there’s now a total of 107 cases. There have been 375 negative tests in Arviat, which has a population of about 2,600. The other new case is in Rankin Inlet.
Keith Baldrey, Global BC: Brutal Washington state COVID-19 numbers today: 3,482 new cases, a record. 35 deaths. In the past week alone 119 people have died there and almost 600 people have entered hospital.
Oregon ArtsWatch: COVID-19 has claimed a record 21 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 847. The total number of Oregonians hospitalized and in intensive care with COVID-19 also increased. There were 1,011 new confirmed and presumptive cases, down from recent days.
FacesOfCOVID: 2,028 people died of COVID today in the United States, the first time since May that the daily death count has exceeded 2,000.
The New York Times: California reported 17,694 new cases on Monday, well more than it or any other state had ever done before, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, it has averaged 12,712 new cases a day — more than Maine’s total for the whole pandemic.
Ken Squier Update: After a challenging few days, the doctors now say they expect him to beat this. He is still very weak, but getting wonderful care. Keep those prayers coming, friends. They’re working.
There's nothing funny about the Ravens current covid-19 outbreak. What is funny is the NFL statement on it: Thursday's game still on (of course) but, 'our main concern is the health and safety of everyone.' Their major concern is having a primetime game for TV Thursday. Period.
The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens have had at least 10 positive tests among players and staff since Sunday night. They are scheduled to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday. . . . Baltimore RBs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins won’t play, nor will DT Brandon Williams. . . .
To say that NCAA men’s basketball is a mess would be something of an understatement. . . . No. 1 Baylor has pulled out of a tournament in Connecticut that is to start today. Head coach Scott Drew tested positive. . . . Florida has pulled out of two games. . . . East Carolina, Indiana State and Akron pulled out of a tournament in Florida. . . . The start of Wichita State’s season has been delayed. The Shockers actually flew into Sioux Falls, S.D., for a tournament only to have seven team members test positive. . . . Rick Barnes, the head coach at Tennessee, has tested positive and team activities are on hold. The school reported multiple positives among “Tier 1 personnel, which consists of coaches, student-athletes, team managers and support staff.” . . . Gardner-Webb experienced at least one positive so pulled out of what was to have been Duke’s season-opener. . . . Ole Miss had some positives, including head coach Kermit Davis, so cancelled a three-game tournament it was to hold and team activities are on hold until Dec. 7. . . . The Florida A&M women’s team has opted out of the 2020-21 season. . . .
The 24-team Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, which had been hoping to open its season on Dec. 2, now is aiming for Jan. 15. The league’s return-to-play protocol includes games being played without deliberate bodychecking/intentional physical contact and no post-whistle scrums. . . .
90% of the Hockey East schedule is essentially wiped out at this point until at least mid-December.
Northeastern has shut down winter sports until Dec. 18 because of what the schools says is a “small cluster of recent COVID-19 cases that led to quarantining athletes on five varsity teams.” The men’s hockey team has cancelled or postponed six games. . . . The women’s basketball and women’s hockey team both experienced positive tests, as did the men’s women’s track and field teams. . . .
The U of Maine in Orono has shut down winter athletics through at least Dec. 8 “due to positive test results on campus, including individuals involved with the varsity athletic programs.” . . . All games for the men’s and women’s basketball teams and men’s and women’s hockey teams between Nov. 25 and Dec. 8 have been cancelled. . . .
The Minnesota at No. 18 Wisconsin football game scheduled for Saturday won’t happen. Minnesota has paused team-related activities due to positives tests within its program. . . .
Martin Pakula, the sports minister for the Australian state of Victoria, says the start of the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament “most likely” will be delayed. The tournament, which is held in Melbourne, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18. However, Pakula said it is likely to be delayed a week or two. At the same time, he didn’t rule out a longer delay.
My boys and I are loving the Tim Horton hockey card collection this year. Next year, I would like to see a special Fred Sasakamoose card as a tribute for being an Indigenous pioneer in the game of hockey. You could do a subset of all pioneers in the game. @TimHortons
The Brandon Wheat Kings announced Tuesday that they have promoted Don MacGillivray to head coach, replacing Dave Lowry who joined the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach on Monday. . . . Lowry spent one season in Brandon. . . . MacGillivray has been on the Wheat Kings’ coaching staff for four seasons. . . . He has extensive coaching experience in junior hockey, including most of two seasons (1996-98) as head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. He also is a four-time winner of the MJHL’s coach-of-the-year award. . . . The Wheat Kings’ coaching staff also includes assistant Mark Derlago and goaltending coach Tyler Plante. . . . The team apparently is in the process of hiring another assistant coach.
Blake Wesley, a former WHL player and coach, wants you to know that, if you aren’t already, you need to get serious about your approach to COVID-19. . . . “I’ve had pneumonia, I’ve had bronchitis — you can intensify that by 10 times,” he told rdnewsNOW. . . . Wesley, 61, coaches at a hockey academy in Sankt Pölten, Austria. . . . Wesley played for the Portland Winterhawks (1976-79). He also was an assistant coach with the Tri-City Americans (2001-02) and Portland (2002-04). . . .
In a story written by Josh Hall and Troy Gillard, Wesley said that despite taking all the recommended precautions he started to feel poorly on Oct. 2 and found out on Oct. 7 that he was positive. He can’t be certain, but he may have gotten infected from a colleague who also tested positive but wasn’t hospitalized. . . . Later that day, Wesley got an ambulance ride to a hospital where the medical team did tests and blood work. Doctors there then transferred him to a hospital in Lilienfield, which is about 35 minutes from Sankt Pölten. The hospital there is strictly for COVID-19 patients. . . . He was in that hospital until Oct. 23. . . .
Wesley, whose wife was in Penticton, B.C., through all of this, added: “It was exhaustive and, quite honestly, what drained me the most was when the doctors came in to do the second test and they said ‘Nope, you’re not going home.’ I got pretty weepy and teary-eyed because there’s no one there to comfort you.” . . . Wesley was discharged from hospital on Oct. 23 and feels that he now is ready to get back on the ice.
In a highly emotional Facebook post, Wesley explained the symptoms he felt: “Friday October 2. This was the day I started feeling symptoms (raging headache, heart racing, elevated BP, nausea, fatigue, weariness, respiratory infection, loss of taste, loss of appetite). Honestly, I thought I was having a heart attack, and there was someone squeezing the air out of my lungs. Dry cough, dry scratchy eyes, fever, chills. It was a horrible flu, along with pneumonia and bronchitis symptoms.”
While in that hospital, he wasn’t allowed outside his room.
“I was wheeled into the hospital by the ambulance attendants,” Wesley wrote. “That’s the last time I was outside the hospital room. I felt like a prisoner! . . . That was difficult. I thought there was a remote chance to walk about the floor outside the room. No chance of that!!”
And then things started to get worse.
“Over the next few days my symptoms worsened. . . . It was very hard to breathe, and the oxygen Infusions gave some relief. The coughing was painful. Sore throat couldn’t eat food somedays.”
According to Wesley, his daily regimen included lots of blood work, daily infusions of medication via IVs, blood-thinner injections, oral antibiotics and oxygen infusions three times a day. He said he also was treated with Remdesivir.
“There were some really challenging days — mentally, spiritually and physically,” he wrote. “I had four Corona tests while I was in the hospital. None of them were negative. I was so discouraged and disappointed when the test results came back each time.”
Finally, he was discharged on Oct. 23 and returned home. He said that by this time he didn’t have any symptoms “even though I was still positive.” He quarantined at home through Nov. 2.
On Nov. 1, he wrote that “over these past days, I have improved tremendously.”
But, he added, “I never want to have a reoccurrence of this nightmare!!”
In summing up, he wrote:
“I thought I was immune to this virus!!!
“I wore a mask, I always did my best to take all the necessary precautions. I will be vigilant every day. Good nutrition, sanitizing my hands, wearing a mask, distancing . . . the virus is powerful, and we are mere mortals in its path.
“Wear a mask, wash your hands, and avoid physical contact.”
The story by Hall and Gillard is right here. . . . If you’re on Facebook, search for Wesley’s page and read his story in its entirety.
And now it’s the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s turn to deal with COVID-19. The AJHL, which plans on opening its regular season on Nov. 13, revealed Wednesday morning that “a member” of the Whitecourt Wolverines tested positive and that the Alberta Health Services protocols had been activated.
A tweet from the AJHL stated: “For privacy reasons, no further comments will be provided.”
The Wolverines haven’t played since Oct. 17 when they beat the visiting Grande Prairie Storm, 4-2. Whitecourt’s next exhibition game was to have been played on Friday, at the Drayton Valley Thunder, but it has been cancelled. The Thunder was to have visited Whitecourt the following night but that game also has been cancelled.
The WHL has said it will open its next regular season on Jan. 8. If you’re wondering what things might look like inside arenas with limited seating capacities because of the pandemic, there were a few hints in a news release issued by the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday.
That release deals with what the team refers to as “season-ticket deadline and process.”
Included in the release . . .
“While the comprehensive development of the guidelines and protocols are in progress and subject to change, at this point in time, we are expecting the following key measures to be included in our return-to-play protocols:
“Reduced overall capacity and a seating plan which allows for social distancing between groups of fans that are considered part of a household and/or extended household group. This will require most season-ticket holders to be moved to different seats for the 2020-21 season; however for subsequent seasons when capacities are allowed to return to normal, season-ticket holders will be returned to their regular seats.
“A requirement to create separate contained zones in the i-Plex, requiring groups to stay within their assigned zone throughout a game. Each zone will have separate parking, entrances and exits, and will have access to washrooms, concessions, merchandise store or tables, and 50/50 booths. Fans will not be able to enter into any other zone.
“At this time, fans will most likely be required to wear a face mask at all times, except when eating or drinking within their own seat.”
The Broncos also point out that “there will likely be several other guidelines and protocols to adhere to, and these may change prior to and throughout the season.”
In other words, the only sure thing these days is that things likely will change.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
The University of Washington has informed the NFL office that due to an increase in COVID-19 infection rate and indications of increased community spread in the local area, NFL personnel are no longer allowed to attend games at Husky Stadium.
From Oct. 25-31, the NFL had 42,916 tests administered to 7,884 players and team personnel. There were eight positive tests among players and 17 among other personnel. . . . Since Aug. 1, the NFL says more than 550,000 tests have been administered, and there have been positive tests for 63 players and 99 other personnel. . . .
The Detroit Lions place QB Matthew Stafford on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. It’s his second time on the list, as he was on it in August for what turned out to be a false positive. . . . According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Stafford is considered a “high-risk, close contact” of someone who tested positive. . . . That contact apparently occurred on Monday, so Matthews will be eligible to come off the list on Sunday, in time to play against the host Minnesota Vikings.
The San Francisco 49ers will be without WR Kendrick Bourne when they play host to the Green Bay Packers tonight (Thursday). Bourne, who is into self-quarantine, tested positive so won’t play. Also among San Francisco’s scratches will be LT Trent Williams, WR Brandon Aiyuk and WR Deebo Samuel, who are seen as high-risk contacts to Bourne and went on the reserve/COVID-19 list. . . . San Francisco, which also will be without more than a dozen injured players, including QB Jimmy Garoppolo and TE George Kittle, shut down its facility on Wednesday and held virtual meetings. There are more test results due Thursday. . . . The game is still scheduled to be played, at least until those results are seen. . . . The Packers are without RB AJ Dillon, who came up positive on Monday. RB Jamaal Williams and LB Kamal Martin also won’t play after being designated as “high-risk” contacts. . . .
The Winnipeg Free Press reported Tuesday that one player with the MJHL’s OCN Blizzard has tested positive. While the MJHL has yet to confirm the report, it did do some rescheduling of games on Wednesday. That included the postponing of two weekend games in which the Dauphin Kings were to have played the Portage Terriers “due to precautionary public health concerns.” The Kings played host to the Blizzard on Saturday night. . . . Why hasn’t the MJHL commented on the positive test? According to a news release that included scheduling changes, “Public Health (is) the only informed authority to provide public information via daily bulletins on possible exposure, close contact to exposure or the declaration of an outbreak.” . . . That news release is right here. . . .
The Pac-12 football season is scheduled to start on Saturday. Whoops! Guess what? . . . On Wednesday, the U of California, Berkley, athletic department released a statement indicating that “a member of the Cal football program has tested positive . . . marking the first positive test within the program since the start of daily testing” early in October. The statement also said that “several student-athletes were held out of practice Wednesday as a precautionary measure while contact tracing is being completed.” . . . Cal is scheduled to play host to the Washington Huskies on Saturday night, but that game may well be in jeopardy now. . . .
The U of Louisville has paused all football activities after 10 players and five support staff members tested positive. The Cardinals were to have played at the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday, but the game has been postponed to Nov. 14. . . .
Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reported Wednesday that the five members of Fox Sports’ Big Noon Kickoff show won’t appear this week “due to COVID-19 quarantine protocols.” . . . Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Urban Meyer, Brady Quinn and host Rob Stone will be held off the network’s college football pregame show on Saturday prior to the USC-Arizona State game. . . . Marchand reported that Fox Sports will have Emmanuel Acho, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and host Charissa Thompson on the program that will be one hour long instead of its normal two. . . .
The Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC), which has 17 member schools, announced Wednesday that it “has officially cancelled the 2021 extended winter semester of athletics.” . . . According to a news release, “A surge in COVID-19 cases in Alberta has caused the majority of ACAC member institutions to extend on-line academic program delivery into the winter 2021 semester in the interests of protecting the health and safety of students and the broader community.” . . . For most of the schools involved, that takes care of basketball, volleyball and futsal for this season.
UPDATES: GER #PennyDEL – Clubs will decide on 19 November when the season will start. Target date: 18 Dec. Schedule also possible on 19 Nov. FRA #LigueMagnus – Season paused for another week. CZE #TELH – Games to resume Sunday, Monday but pending approval of Corona testing.
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 — announced 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 deficitto “pandemic-related lost revenues.”
The Warriors also had to pay $180,846 as its share of the settlement of a $30-million 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 director 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.”
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 in 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 hasn’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.
Here, in summation, is what I believe has happened with the QMJHL and fighting. . . . 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.
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.”
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.
The Swift Current Broncos had a tough go of it on the ice last season, putting up a record of 10-48-5.
Things were just as bad in the accounting ledger as the WHL team announced a loss of $791,000 at its annual general meeting on Tuesday night. One year earlier, after a 2018-19 season in which it was 11-51-6, the team announced a profit of $38,196.
After last night’s AGM, the team explained in a statement: “The financial results for (the) season were severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the settlement of a CHL-wide class-action lawsuit, an accounting revaluation of the education scholarship liability, and several unexpected reductions in key supplementary revenue streams, amounting to over $470,000 of additional losses for the season.”
Meanwhile, the Moose Jaw Warriors announced a 2019-20 loss of $391,299 at their AGM, which also was held on Tuesday night. One year earlier, the team announced a loss of $165,145 for 2018-19.
“In total,” wrote Corey Atkinson of discovermoosejaw.com, “the Warriors lost $391,299 on the season, handing over $282,286 in lost revenues due to COVID and their share of a lawsuit assessment — $180,846 — against the Canadian Hockey League in May.”
Atkinson also reported: “The Warriors have trimmed staff and have been able to get some pay decreases to try to minimize the impact. They’re also taken a deferral of the commitment they made annually to the multiplex — a $200,000 commitment for this season. They pledged $2.5 million in 2011-12 for the building, and have been able to come through on $2.1 million of that over the last 10 years.”
The Warriors finished last in the six-team East Division, at 14-44-4. They lost three home dates to the pandemic, and averaged 2,981 fans for 31 games. That was down from 2018-19 when the average for 34 games was 3,347.
Atkinson also reported that “regular-season receipts were down from $1,661,649 last (season) to $1,356,766.”
So . . . you’re Al Murray and you have been with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 10 NHL seasons. You are the assistant general manager/director of amateur scouting, so you have had a lot to do with the construction of the team’s roster. . . . You’re Al Murray and your team won the Stanley Cup on Monday night in Edmonton, while you watched from your home in Regina. So what did you do on Tuesday morning? . . . You went for a walk, that’s what. . . . Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post was out for a morning stroll when he encountered Murray and his wife, Lori. Yes, they both were smiling. . . .
You should know that Al Murray isn’t a stranger to winning. In three years as Hockey Canada’s head scout, his teams won two World Junior titles, one at the IIHF U-18 championship, and three Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament titles. . . . I first met him when he was the head coach of the U of Regina Cougars men’s team, a position he held from 1985-88. Sheesh, Al, that was a long time ago!
Saddened by passing of Jay Johnstone. After trade to @Yankees in '78, months after they jeered Burt Hooton into bases-loaded playoff walks, I asked how tough are Philly fans. He said when games are rained out, they go to airport to boo bad landings. First time I'd heard that.
A note from the Monday posting by Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon:
“Dr. Harry Edwards is a noted sociologist who has spent a long time as an observer and a critic of sports as they impact Black athletes’ lives. Over the weekend, I ran across a Tweet from him related to the decision by the PAC-12 schools to reverse course and play football this fall:
“ ‘For PAC12 programs to use ‘our student-athletes want to play’ as a PRINCIPAL reason for restarting football/fall sports programs while soft-peddling COVID risks to athletes, denying MONEY considerations significantly driving this decision is disingenuous, delusional,& dangerous.’ ”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
QMJHL confirms weekend games are still a go in Quebec.
To fight Covid-19 three hardest hit regions of the province are now classified as in the "red zone"- Quebec & Blainville-Boisbriand play in those regions. But for now they are still permitted to play their games. https://t.co/mYiwIbaeHR
The NHL announced on Monday that it had completed a ninth week of bubble play without any positive tests. There were 773 tests done from Sept. 20-26. All told, there were 33,174 tests to players and club personnel while the playoffs were conducted in the Edmonton bubble. . . . Of course, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup last night in Edmonton, securing a six-game victory over the Dallas Stars with a 2-0 victory in Game 6. . . . The NHL deserves straight As for getting through these playoffs in two bubble cities — Toronto being the other one — without any positive tests. . . .
The Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings played an NFL game in Minneapolis on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Titans announced eight positive tests — three players and five other employees — and shut things down until at least Saturday. The Vikings have closed their practice facility pending further test results. . . . The NFL also is doing daily testing and monitoring of on-field officials from Sunday’s game. That crew won’t work in Week 4. . . . This all started on Saturday when Titans LB Shane Bowen tested positive and didn’t make the trip to Minneapolis. All other Tennessee players, coaches and staff were negative on Saturday. . . . The Titans are scheduled to meet the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, while the Vikings at to travel to Houston to meet the Texans. . . .
The 2020 Spengler Cup has been cancelled. The tournament, held annually in Davos, Switzerland, had been scheduled to run from Dec. 26-31. . . .
The five-school Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference has cancelled its 2020 soccer season. The decision was made as Winnipeg shifted to a Code Orange response to the pandemic. . . .
After cancelling Saturday’s football game against host Wake Forest because of seven positive tests, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish revealed that they now have 18 positives. . . . All told, there are 25 players in isolation and another 14 in quarantine. . . . Notre Dame’s next scheduled game is Oct. 10 against visiting Florida State. . . .
The KHL has cancelled its all-star game and the week long festivities that accompany it. The party was to have been held in Riga, Latvia, in January.
Blake Anderson, the head football coach at Arkansas State, has admitted to testing positive after the Red Wolves beat host Kansas State on Sept. 12. That likely is no surprise because the Red Wolves have had to postpone their last two games because of positive tests and contact tracing. . . .
Central Arkansas is to play North Dakota State in Fargo on Saturday. NDSU was going to allow more than 8,000 fans into the game, this despite numbers rising in the area and the state having suggested a cap of 250 fans at indoor events. The Fargodome seats 18,700 for football. . . . On Tuesday, however, the school changed plans and will allow only the families of players to watch from the stands.
Ryan Smith has left the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, where he was an assistant coach, to join the Spokane Chiefs as associate coach. . . . In Spokane, Smith will work alongside Adam Maglio, who was promoted to head coach to replace Manny Viveiros, who has joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights as head coach their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Smith is coming off two seasons with the Tigers after spending three on the Swift Current Broncos’ coaching staff.
I haven’t seen an announcement from either team — although perhaps I missed it — but Gary Aubin appears to have moved on from the Swift Current Broncos and landed with the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Aubin, from St. Albert, Alta., had been the Broncos’ director of player personnel since July 18, 2018; in fact, he guided them through the 2020 WHL bantam draft. Before joining the Broncos, he spent 11 seasons on the Spokane Chiefs’ scouting staff and before that he worked with the Kamloops Blazers for 15 years. . . . Now he is listed on the Rockets’ website as a member of their scouting staff.
JUST NOTES: Hey, NFL, it’s time to do away with kickoffs. Just spot the ball at the 25 and carry on. . . . I don’t know about you, but I really, really miss the CFL. . . . QB Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs looks like a man playing in a city’s minor football program. . . . Two WHLers — F Lukas Svejkovsky of the Medicine Hat Tigers and G Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips — are among the 39 players invited to USA Hockey’s national junior team evaluation camp. That camp, which will be closed to fans, media and scouts, is scheduled for Oct. 8-13 in Plymouth, Mich. . . . The USHL has released its 2020-21 regular-season schedule. It calls for each of its 14 teams to play 54 games in what the league called a “regionally based schedule.” The regular season is to end on April 24. The USHL also said that its teams “are working with health and government officials regarding spectator policies. Each team will develop its own plan for spectators based on local and state guidelines.” . . . I don’t know about you, but rather than watch last night’s debate, I spent the evening with Statler and Waldorf.
Sheesh, it really can’t be much fun being the owner of a WHL team these days. For starters, you don’t know whether to be selling sponsorships, advertising and season tickets because you aren’t able to guarantee a starting date for a new season. You are hoping to begin regular-season play on Dec. 4, but there aren’t any guarantees.
On top of that, you likely still are counting up the losses from not having been able to finish the 2019-20 season, thanks to the pandemic that doesn’t appear anywhere close to going way.
And now the WHL finds itself involved in yet another proposed class-action lawsuit, this one apparently having been filed this week.
Kobe Mohr, a former WHL player, is among those fronting this one that names the NHL, AHL, ECHL, OHL, QMJHL and WHL. Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star reports: “A proposed $825-million class-action claim alleges a conspiracy among the world’s top professional and amateur hockey leagues to exploit dream-chasing teenage players with one-sided contracts containing abusive restrictions on their young careers.”
Mohr, now 21, played with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Moose Jaw Warriors (2014-20). He totalled 35 goals and 66 assists in 265 regular-season games, after being selected by Edmonton with the 20th pick in the 2014 bantam draft.
The WHL now finds itself entangled to one degree or another in four separate class-action lawsuits in various stages of progression through the legal system. Two others — one involving concussions and the other regarding alleged hazing and other physical and mental abuses — are early in the process. . . .
The other, which involved a claim for past and present-day players to be paid minimum wage and other perks, was settled by the CHL for $30 million earlier this year, but the settlement still needs judicial approval. Rick Westhead of TSN reported Tuesday that an Ontario judge spent part of yesterday hearing arguments “about whether to approve” the settlement. According to Westhead, Justice Paul Perell said there are “objectors” to the settlement and that “a trade association called the World Association of Ice Hockey Players Unions has filed ‘an aggressive intervenor’ application with the courts to overturn” the settlement.
Ted Charney, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, asked the courts to approve the settlement, saying, according to Westhead, that “a settlement wouldn’t bar new federal court case because the new case alleges a conspiracy to breach the Competition Act, not employment standards laws.”
When Tuesday’s hearing concluded, judgment was reserved.
F Connor Bedard, who was selected first overall by the Regina Pats in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft, will be travelling to Sweden so that he can skate with HV71’s junior team in Jönköping. Bedard, from North Vancouver, is the first player in history to have been granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada in order to allow him to play regularly in the WHL as a 15-year-old. . . . Because he won’t be playing in games in Sweden, the Pats didn’t have to issue a release. The WHL hopes to start its regular season on Dec. 4, by which time Bedard will have returned to Canada.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Hearing Springfield (Ill.) to go dark for '20-21 NAHL season, joining Corpus Christi & Kansas City
The United Kingdom’s 10-team Elite Hockey League announced Tuesday that it has suspended play because of the pandemic. The season was scheduled to begin on Dec. 5. . . . “We’ve been very open that we need to have fans back in our arenas for us to begin playing again,” Tony Smith, the league’s chairman, said. “We operate around 75 to 100 per cent capacity at our venues and this is the level of crowds we would need in order to go ahead at any point, which isn’t a realistic option right now.” . . . The average attendance at league game last season was 3,043. . . .
The World Series will be played in one venue for the first time since 1944. The American and National League winners will play a best-of-seven championship series at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, with Game 1 scheduled for Oct. 20. . . . In 1944, the World Series was played in St. Louis, with both teams from that city. The Cardinals beat the Browns, 4-2. . . . Leading to the World Series, the American League Championship Series will be played at Petco Park in San Diego, with the NLCS at Arlington. . . . Prior to that, the AL Divison Series is to be played in San Diego and Los Angeles, with the NLDS in Arlington and Houston. . . .
The Texas Tech Red Raiders had five positives last week, bringing the team total to 75 since mid-June when testing began as football players returned to campus. The team is carrying more than 120 players. . . . The school has had 116 positives among its student-athletes. . . .
Ed Orgeron, the head football coach at LSU, told reporters on Tuesday that most of his time has had the virus. “Not all of our players, but most of our players have caught it,” he said. “I think that hopefully they won’t catch it again, and hopefully they’re not our for games.” . . . Alex Scarborough of ESPN pointed out: “LSU, like many programs in the SEC and nationally, has not provided regular reports on the number of players who have contracted the novel coronavirus.” . . .
The Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF) cancelled university sports for the fall semester on Monday. This means none of Canada’s four university conferences will play football this fall. The Quebec conference has five teams. . . . U Sports, the governing body for university sports in Canada, had cancelled its national semifinals and final in June. . . .
Organizers of the 2021 Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament have cancelled it. The tournament was to have run from Dec. 30 through Jan. 3. . . . Tournament chairman Jan Antons told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week: “We still don’t know what games are going to look like, when games are potentially going to start and, overall, the main concern was still the health and safety of our players, bringing players in from other provinces and dealing with the 50-person gathering-size limit. It would make it very difficulty to run a tournament at the level we’re used to. We want to make sure KIBIHT remains one of the top-notch tournaments in Canada. . . . there is just too much unknown right now. It’s still a very hard decision.”
As part of our partnership with @BCRenal , we have limited-edition, one-of-a-kind kidney masks for sale, with all proceeds going to the @KidneyBCY COVID-19 Response Fund.
JUST NOTES: The WHL’s four community-owned teams each holds an annual general meeting that is open to shareholders. The Moose Jaw Warriors announced Tuesday that they will hold their AGM on Sept. 29. The Swift Current Broncos said earlier that their meeting also will be held on Sept. 29, with the Prince Albert Raiders having said they will hold their AGM on Oct. 7. . . . The Lethbridge Hurricanes have said their AGM will be held in November, but they have yet to announce an exact date. . . . I don’t know what it is — maybe NHL teams have come down with the ‘Bubble Blues’ — but the games are getting less and less watchable. Too many bodies in the area in front of both nets, not enough shots getting through, not enough offence, not enough goals. Whatever it is, it isn’t good for the NHL game. . . . Did you get your fill of football on Monday night? ESPN’s MNF team of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick — they did the second game — were OK, but the Game 1 pairing of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit was outstanding. Fowler and Herbstreit have worked together as ESPN’s No. 1 college football pairing. They are comfortable with each other and it showed.