Hey, 50 Below, what’s up with this? . . . Michigan’s Power won’t be in Canada’s camp . . . More nasty COVID-19 news and numbers

Well . . . isn’t this interesting.

With southern Manitoba pretty much locked down since Nov. 2 — and headed mjhlto a province-wide lockdown that could last four weeks starting on Thursday — Carter Brooks, the associate editor of the Winnipeg-based Game On Magazine, writes: “50 Below Sports + Entertainment has some serious explaining to do.”

That’s the parent company of, among other things, the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and two MJHL franchises — the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze. Yes, two franchises in a 12-team league are owned by the same outfit.

Some background: Health officials in Manitoba went to Code Red in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region on Nov. 2, then extended it to the Southern Health-Santé Sud Region a week later. On Tuesday, it was announced that the entire province will be under Code Red for four weeks starting on Thursday.

Code Red means no hockey. Period. “Playing team sports . . . will also be out of the question,” reads a CBC News story from Tuesday.

But it seems that the Blues and Freeze chose to book practice ice in Warren, Man., despite the fact that they operate out of the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region. That resulted in, as Brooks wrote, “an anonymous email to MJHL President Kevin Saurette (BCC’d to members of the local Manitoba sports media) of images” that appear to show players from the Blues and Freeze on the ice.

This comes after Hockey Manitoba specifically told teams on Nov. 2 that “for the safety of all members, both hockey teams and individuals (players, officials, and team staff) residing in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region are ineligible to participate in hockey programming beginning November 2, 2020 . . . (that) will be revisited on November 15, 2020.”

The Blues and Freeze, it seems, practised at Warren’s Sunova Arena on Monday. According to Brooks, they also had practices booked for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in Warren, which is located 45 km northwest of Winnipeg.

Rhys van Kemenade, the president of the Sunova Centre, 50 Below Sports + Entertainment’s director of teams and tournaments.

As well, Brooks reported, “Not only did the two teams . . . illegally book the ice and use it for practices against direct orders from both the Province of Manitoba and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, they did so in a manner that attempted to falsify what they were doing. Originally booking their ice under their two team names, the Blues and Freeze since changed their bookings to ‘Laker Academy.’

As evidence, Brooks’ story includes screen grabs from the Warren arena’s date book, information that has since disappeared from the arena’s website.

As Brooks concludes his story: “This program is certainly in line for massive repercussions following such a selfish act of blatant disobedience amid a global pandemic.”

Ya think?

Brooks’ story is right here.

Taylor Allen of the Winnipeg Free Press also did a story that is right here.

His story included this paragraph:

“The Free Press has requested comment from MJHL commissioner Kevin Saurette, Blues and Freeze president Matt Cockell, Blues head coach and GM Taras McEwen, Freeze head coach and GM Josh Green and Laker Hockey Academy instructor Larry Woo to comment on the situation but there has been no response, thus far.”

There’s also a piece in the Winnipeg Sun, written by Paul Friesen and Scott Billeck. That one is right here.

That’s a lot of publicity for all the wrong reasons, isn’t it?


680 CJOB: Manitoba health officials reported 384 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths Tuesday.

CBC News: Manitoba goes ‘red’ as of Thursday to prevent COVID-19 spread. Household-only social contacts, no gatherings. Closures include restaurants (take-out only), personal services (hair salons etc.), gyms, sports, religious centres, museums, libraries, theatres.


The MJHL didn’t mention the Winnipeg Blues or Winnipeg Freeze in a Tuesday news release that referenced the Nov. 2 directive from Hockey Manitoba.

“Any hockey activity that takes place outside the . . . Hockey Manitoba restrictions for regions identified as Critical (Red) is not permitted and is not sanctioned by Hockey Manitoba, the governing body of the MJHL,” the statement from the MJHL reads. “Any teams or individuals who participate(d) in hockey activities outside of the above restrictions would be choosing to do so in an un-sanctioned environment outside of Hockey Manitoba and MJHL jurisdiction.

“The MJHL will provide no further public statement regarding the restrictions outlined above.”

With all of Manitoba locking down starting Thursday for what could be as long as four weeks, the MJHL board of governors is to meet today (Wednesday). You have to think that the league will shut down indefinitely as it awaits for direction from health officials.

Hockey Canada announced Tuesday that D Owen Power of the U of Michigan Canadawon’t be attending the national junior team’s selection camp in Red Deer. . . . Players are scheduled to arrive in Red Deer on Monday with the camp running from Nov. 17 to Dec. 13. The World Junior Championship, to be played in an Edmonton bubble, will open Dec. 25 and close on Jan. 5. . . . According to a statement by Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president of national teams, “Power will not be released to participate” in the camp. . . . Mel Pearson, the U of Michigan’s head coach, had said Monday that he would release Power for the camp; he just didn’t know when that might happen. . . . With two of the three major junior leagues not yet playing games due to the pandemic, the selection camp will run for almost four weeks, resulting in a conflict with NCAA schedules. Some NCAA teams are about to start and Power, with no guarantee of making Canada’s team, could miss as many as 10 Michigan games.



The junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has put some of its schedule on hold for a week after COVID-19 exposures at two Nanaimo high schools that are attended by several players. . . . The four North Division teams — the Nanaimo Buccaneers, Campbell River Storm, Comox Valley Glacier Kings and Oceanside Generals — will sit for a week. . . . Simon Morgan, the VIJHL president, said in a statement that the four North Division governors “are taking this measure out of an abundance of caution and to do everything that they can to help slow the spread of COVID-19.” He added that “no VIJHL player has tested positive . . . this is a precautionary measure that will allow the VIJHL to monitor the situation and evaluate re-start activities when appropriate.”

Janet Brown, CKNW Vancouver: Latest covid19 numbers:  525 new cases, 3 deaths, 142 hospital (+9), 46 ICU (+3), 9781 self isolation, 5133 active cases, hospitalizations highest since Apr 5

Castanet Kamloops: BC announces 525 new coronavirus cases, 27 in IH region.

Shelby Thom, Global Okanagan: Interior Health warning Metro Vancouver-style restrictions could be coming to the Southern Interior if the region doesn’t get a handle on a surge in COVID-19 cases. Health authority urges against ANY non-essential travel.


CBC News: Saskatchewan reports 127 new COVID-19 cases. That’s the lowest total in 3 days, but still above the province’s previous 7-day average of 114. Health authorities say no new deaths have occurred.


CBC News: Alberta reports 713 new coronavirus cases and 7 more deaths. Province sets new COVID-19 records with 207 people hospitalized with the illness. Province also breaks record with 8,090 active cases. . . . Doctors and other health-care workers are warning that the province’s hospitals may not be able to handle the rising number of cases.


The junior B St. Catharines Falcons of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League announced Tuesday that they have “experienced a number of COVID-19 positive cases.” According to the team, “The initial cases were from contact outside of our team bubble through asymptomatic transmission. Unfortunately, subsequent to this we had further transmission within the team and . . . the entire team now is under a 14-day quarantine process.” . . .

CBC News: Ontario reports 1,328 new COVID-19 cases, marking new record for 2nd straight day.

CBC News: Toronto won’t follow province when some COVID-19 restrictions lift Saturday. Ban on indoor dining remains, event spaces, casinos, gyms, fitness centres to stay closed for another 28 days. Chief medical officer also recommends limiting social gatherings to household members only.


CBC News: Quebec is reporting 38 additional deaths due to COVID-19. Health officials are also reporting 1,162 new coronavirus cases. That pushes the province’s 7-day average to 1,180 from 1,139.


oregonlive.com: Coronavirus in Oregon: 3 deaths, 771 new cases as officials sound alarm on hospitalizations.

WA Dept. of Health: Increase in COVID-19 activity statewide extremely concerning as holiday season nears; Health officials call for renewed efforts now.

Seattle Times: Washington state health officials have warned that “any in-person gathering is risky” as daily COVID-19 cases are at record-high numbers. Another stay-at-home order is still possible if counts don’t improve, officials said.

The New York Times: The number of Covid-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. hit an all-time high, as the pandemic continued shattering records and straining medical facilities.

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed four players, including QB Ben Roethlisberger, on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday morning. OL Jerald Hawkins, RB Jaylen Samuels and LB Vince Williams also went on the list. . . . TE Vance McDonald went on the list on Monday. . . . The players have to isolate for five days while undergoing testing. Negative results would get them off the list in time to play against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. . . . At 8-0, the Steelers are the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team. . . . The Philadelphia Eagles revealed Tuesday that a staff member has tested positive and is self-isolating.

The NCAA has dropped three football games from Saturday schedule — Alabama at LSU and Texas A&M at Tennessee were postponed Tuesday, after Auburn at Mississippi State went by the wayside on Monday. . . . LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn all are dealing with positive tests. Auburn paused practices Tuesday after getting 12 positives. . . . The Cal Golden Bears had their season-opener cancelled last weekend because of positives and haven’t yet gotten the OK to return to practice. That included having the entire defensive line quarantined for two weeks. Cal is supposed to play at Arizona State on Saturday. . . .

The Minneapolis StarTribune reports that “multiple members of the Gophers men’s and women’s basketball teams have tested positive . . .” The men’s team has paused activities indefinitely; the women’s team paused last week and then started practising again on Friday. The women’s team now is hoping to start up again before this week is out. . . . Duke announced Tuesday that it won’t allow fans at its men’s and women’s basketball games at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season. The school isn’t allowing fans at football games either. . . .

The Rochester Institute of Technology is a member of the Liberty League (NCAA Div. III), which cancelled its winter sports season on Monday. It turns out that the cancellation includes RIT’s hockey programs, which are the school’s only Div. 1 teams. The players are protesting the decision, but if it holds the Tigers will be the first Div. I teams to have their seasons cancelled. The RIT men play in Atlantic Hockey, while the women are in College Hockey America. Both conferences are planning on playing. . . .

The New York Knicks closed their practice facility on Tuesday after three employees tested positive. The NBA allowed teams to open up facilities on Oct. 30. Players won’t report for training camps for a while yet with the season to open on Dec. 22.


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Czech goalie appears headed to Chiefs. . . . ‘Canes’ Cozens suffers thumb injury. . . . Campbell staying in Portland


F Brandon McMillan (Kelowna, 2006-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL). Last season, in 47 games, he had seven goals and 12 assists. An alternate captain he averaged 19:04 TOI. . . .

D Anatoli Yelizarov (Edmonton, 2015-17) has been traded by Salavat Yulaev Ufa to Sochi (both Russia, KHL) for monetary compensation. Last season, with Salavat Yulaev, he was pointless in 40 games. He also had one assist in 16 games with Toros Neftekamsk (Russia, Vysshaya Liga), and had one assist in two games with Tolpas Ufa (Russia, MHL). . . . MHL (Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga) is Russia’s national junior league.


Allan Walsh is a prominent player agent and the co-managing director at Octagon-Hockey. One of his clients would seem to be Czech G Lukas Pařík, 18, who was selected by the Spokane Chiefs in Thursday’s CHL import draft and it would seem that he is bound for the WHL. . . . A few days earlier, Pařík had been selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round of the NHL draft, then spent a few days in the Kings’ development camp. . . . At this point in time, he joins three other goaltenders on the Chiefs’ depth chart — veterans Bailey Brkin and Reece Klassen, both of whom are prepping for their 20-year-old seasons, and Campbell Arnold, a second-round pick in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft who played last season with the junior B Spokane Braves.

F Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes suffered an injury to his left thumb on Saturday while in the Buffalo Sabres’ development camp. It appears that the thumb was hurt as he put his hand down in the hopes of easing a fall as he tried to absorb a hip check from D Brandon Hickey. . . . Cozens, who is to see a specialist on Monday, later told reporters: “It’s good. I saw the videos and stuff. I think it looked a lot worse than it really was. . . . but right when it happened I wanted to get right back out there, so I’m feeling good.” . . . Cozens told reporters that the thumb isn’t broken. He also kept his left hand in the pouch of his hoodie as he spoke with reporters. . . . The Sabres selected Cozens with the seventh pick of the NHL’s 2019 draft.

You may recall that the Prince George Cougars’ 2018-19 schedule included an 11-game road trip that began in early December and ran into Christmas, all but ruined their season and may well have cost head coach Richard Matvichuk his job. . . . So what kind of schedule are the Cougars looking at for 2019-20? . . . Hartley Miller of 94.3 the GOAT and the analyst on Cougars’ home broadcasts, takes a look right here.

There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping here, why not consider donating to the cause? All that’s involved is clicking on the DONATE button over there on the right and following the instructions. Thank you very much.

An interesting item from Patti Dawn Swansson, aka The River City Renegade, who is a must read whenever she posts a smorgasbord of thoughts and opinions, which usually is a couple of times a week

“Can it really be true that parents are required to pony up $12,000 for their 17- and 18-year-old kids to skate with Winnipeg Blues in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League? That, according to an article by Taylor Allen in the Drab Slab, is up from $3,000 last season. I don’t make a habit of telling folks how to spend their money, but in this case I will: Are you people nuts? That’s a lot of coin for a handful of hope. I mean, if the goal for your boy is the National Hockey League, you might be better off buying $12,000 worth of lottery tickets. I don’t blame parents for dreaming, though. The bad guys here are the mucky-mucks at 50 Below Sports + Entertainment. That $12,000 price tag is just wrong.”

The “Drab Slab” is the Winnipeg Free Press, in which Allen wrote:

“To suit up for the Blues this (season), it will cost $12,000 for players between the ages of 17 and 18, and $6,000 for 19- and 20-year-olds. Last (season), players had to pay roughly $3,000, with some of the cost offset by fundraising. The price has gone way up, as the Blues, who are owned by the same ownership group as the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, are now a club whose main intention is to develop players in hopes of getting them ready to play in the WHL.”

Are the Blues the only junior A team in all of Canada whose goal is to groom players for the WHL rather than try to get them hockey scholarships with NCAA teams?

Swansson’s complete piece is right here.

The Portland Winterhawks have re-signed Rich Campbell, their athletic trainer/strength Portlandand conditioning coach, to a contract extension, the length of which wasn’t revealed. . . . Campbell is prepping for his 12th season with the Winterhawks. . . . “Rich Campbell is the longest serving member of our current staff, and we are pleased to announce that he will be returning for several more seasons,” Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ vice-president, general manager and head coach, said in a news release. “One of the key reasons we are able to develop players for the National Hockey League is because of the work Rich does off the ice.” . . . Campbell’s resume includes a stint with the 2008 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team that played in the Beijing Games, and working as the head trainer for the NHL’s New York Islanders from 1997 to 2006.


The Toronto Maple Leafs have hired Dave Hakstol as an assistant coach under head coach Mike Babcock. Hakstol, the former U of North Dakota head coach, was fired as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 17. . . . The Leafs had an opening on their staff after Jim Hiller, a former WHL player and coach, left after four seasons to join the staff of the New York Islanders. Hiller was the head coach of the Chilliwack Bruins for three seasons (2006-09) and the Tri-City Americans for five (2009-14). . . .

Mike Vellucci, who was the head coach of the AHL-champion Charlotte Checkers for two seasons, now is the head coach of that league’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. . . . The announcement was made on Friday, one day after Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli resigned for personals reasons. . . . Vellucci is the AHL’s reigning coach of the year. . . . He spent five seasons (2014-19) with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes as assistant general manager and director of hockey operations. For the past two seasons, he also was Charlotte’s head coach. Before joining Carolina, he spent 14 seasons (2001-14) as the GM/head coach of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. . . .

The junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League have named Clayton Robinson their general manager and head coach, with Jesse Hammill coming on board as associate coach. . . . Robinson has owned the franchise since May 1, 2018. . . . Curtis Toneff, the team’s GM/head coach for two seasons, left to join the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos as an assistant coach.


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