Winterhawks land rights to high-end goaltender . . . Cougars, Broncos swap goalies . . . MJHL’s Neepawa franchise rebrands


Jesper Wallstedt of Sweden is NHL Central Scouting’s No. 1-ranked PortlandAlternateinternational goaltender going into the 2021 NHL draft. The Portland Winterhawks acquired his WHL rights on Monday, giving the Moose Jaw Warriors a sixth-round selection in the 2023 WHL draft. . . . Joshua Critzer of pnwhockeytalk.com reported that the Winterhawks also sent “several conditional selections” to the Warriors. . . . Critzer’s piece is right here. . . .

The Winterhawks have two other import players on their roster — D Jonas Brøndberg and Swiss F Simon Knak, 19. However, Brøndberg, a Dane, is 20 and the Winterhawks may not want to make room for a two-spotter — a 20-year-old import — on their roster. . . . Knak, who captained Switzerland’s team at the 2021 World junior tournament in Edmonton, began the 2020-21 season on loan to HC Davos of the Swiss National League, so might be thinking of staying home, although that may depend on whether he gets selected in the NHL’s 2021 draft, something that didn’t happen in 2020. . . . Brøndberg opened the 2020-21 season on loan to the Aalborg Pirates of Metal Ligaen, Denmark’s top league. . . .

Wallstedt, who won’t turn 19 until Nov. 14, is from Vasteras, Sweden. In 2020-21, he played in 22 regular-season games with Lulea in the SHL, Sweden’s highest pro league, putting up 11 victories and going 2.23, .908, with two shutouts. . . . The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Wallstedt also played for Sweden at the 2021 World junior championship in Edmonton. He got into two games (2.40, .923). . . The Warriors had selected him in the 2019 CHL import draft. . . . The Winterhawks have two other goaltenders on their roster — Dante Giannuzzi, the starter in 2020-21, who turns 19 on Sept. 3, and backup Brock Gould, who will turn 20 on Dec. 11. They also have signed G Lochlan Gordon, 18, who was a third-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft.


JFK


The WHL rights to two other goaltenders also were swapped on Monday, as the Prince George Cougars dealt Jacob Herman, 18, to the Swift Current Broncos for Jordan Fairlie, also 18. The deal is a homecoming of sorts for both players, both of whom actually are late-2002s. . . . Fairlie is from Fort St. John, B.C., while Herman is from Swift Current. . . . Fairlie, who will turn 19 on Nov. 5, got into one game with the Broncos in 2019-20 (0-1-0, 13.50, .700). In 2020-21, he played seven games (5-2-0, 2.16, .907) with the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings. . . . Herman will turn 19 on Oct. 23. He played two games (0-2-0, 6.00, .831) with the Cougars in 2019-20. In 2020-21, he went 1-0-1, 4.20, .874 in three appearances with the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers.


I’m a bit late with the above tweet, but if you hustle over to the Prince Albert Daily Herald’s website, who should be able to find the already-published stories in this series.


The MJHL’s Neepawa franchise, which had been known as the Natives, NeepawaTitansannounced on Monday that it has changed its nickname to Titans. . . . Ken Pearson, the Titans’ general manager and head coach, played for the Natives in the 1990s and said the previous nickname had been around since the 1960s. The franchise has been part of the MJHL since 1989. . . . In a news release, Pearson explained the new nickname: “A Titan is known as one that stands out for greatness of achievement and we feel our community is full of Titans in every facet of life. Neepawa is known as the ‘Land of Plenty’ and we feel Neepawa is a Titan in the agriculture, lumber, pork production and brewing industries. . . . The colours chosen reflect a field of canola on the horizon, the silver and black pay tribute to the classic look of junior hockey clubs of the ’90s.”


Marlin Vanrobaeys, a forward who was a key contributor to the MJHL’s Selkirk Steelers when they won the 1974 Centennial Cup, has died. He was 66. . . . Vanrobaeys, who was a fun-lover with a great sense of humour, also was known for his hair. I was with the Winnipeg Tribune and covered the Steelers when they were a dominant MJHL franchise in the mid-1970s. One spring day, Gordie Howe and the WHA’s Houston Aeros were in Winnipeg for a game with the Jets and found themselves in the Winnipeg Arena at the same time as the Steelers. Spotting Vanrobaeys, Howe took one look at him and asked: “Hey, did you get your finger stuck in a light socket?” . . . Well, Vanrobaeys and Co. thought that was just the greatest thing ever. . . . The Steelers won the national junior A championship with a 1-0 victory over the Smiths Falls Bears in the seventh game of the final. . . . In the photo in the above tweet, Vanrobaeys is in the front row, second from right, quite identifiable from the hair-do.


The BCHL announced on Monday that it plans to open its 2021-22 regular season on Oct. 8, which is about a month later than what used to be normal. . . . The league played games in a pod format in its 2020-21 season. Prior to that, it had a four-division format, something that now has been changed to two conferences, each with nine teams. . . . The Interior Conference will include the Cranbrook Bucks, an expansion franchise for 2020-21 that took part in the pod season but has yet to play a home game. . . . The 2021-22 season also calls for the return of the Wenatchee, Wash., Wild, which sat out 2020-21 because of the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel.


Garbage


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: William Sadonick-Carriere, the Brandon Wheat Kings’ athletic therapist for the past two seasons, is leaving to join the Manitoba Moose, the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate. He actually had been working with the Moose before joining the Wheat Kings for the 2019-20 season. . . . Former NHLer Ian Laperriere has been named head coach of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers announced last month that head coach Scott Gordon and assistant coach Kerry Huffman were out. Laperriere has been an assistant coach with the Flyers for the past eight seasons. . . . The Lake Tahoe Lakers, who are preparing for their first season in the USPHL’s Premier level, have signed Dan Bogdan as their first head coach. He was an assistant coach with the NAHL’s Maine Nordiques in 2020-21.


Princess

The strain of loving a critically ill child . . . Bedard scores twice in WHL debut, but Pats lose . . . BCHL prepping to play games

Ferris2
That’s Elmo from Sesame Street keeping Ferris company in her hospital bed in Vancouver. Ferris’s mother, Lindsey, says her daughter often crosses her legs in this fashion. (Photo: Lindsey Backmeyer/Facebook)

If you’re a parent with a young child, you will have known the helpless feeling that takes over when your youngster is ill. Still, you know that the illness will be gone in a day or two and your child will be back to running and playing and generally creating havoc.

But what if your child was four years of age and had been ill, seriously ill, for most of that time? What does that do to your emotional state and to that of others in your family? What about your family’s financial status when there have been numerous trips to Vancouver, along with a number of lengthy stays?

That is the situation in which Lindsey and Pat Backmeyer find themselves. Ferris, their four-year-old daughter, was diagnosed with Mainzer-Saldino Syndrome shortly after birth and has been on dialysis — peritoneal dialysis (PD) or hemo-dialysis — for most of her life. She now is in B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver after having undergone a kidney transplant a week ago. Unfortunately, the kidney began bleeding into Ferris’s abdomen and had to be removed a few hours later.

Ferris was moved from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on Thursday but still has a long road ahead of her.

Lindsey is a respiratory therapist at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and hasn’t been shy about telling Ferris’s story, even if it means baring her own soul. It’s hard to read Lindsey’s writings without your gut tightening, your heart breaking and your eyes tearing up.

“We have felt an overwhelming cocoon of support by my work family . . since the beginning,” Lindsey wrote earlier this week after Alexa McMillan, a co-worker, issued a plea for financial help to the Kamloops business community. “They protect me, provide for me and my family and have provided endless emotional support.”

As someone who works in the healthcare field, Lindsey has “a pretty solid understanding of critical care medicine and the reality is Ferris has been critically ill for a huge part of her life.

“I’ve spent four years assessing her and caring for her and very few people actually know what it’s taking to keep our ship afloat. My immediate family, closest friends, home nurses and then my work people probably understand best.

“I’ve worked on the other side of what I witnessed Saturday. It was like the hardest night shift ever, where you just did all the things working on your patient for hours except I so rarely see people survive that. I’ve been scared for Ferris’s life before and every time I’ve had a work person by my side . . . through the night. Saturday night was no exception.”

Her training and understanding of all that she and her family — including daughters Tavia, 9, and Ksenia, 7 — have been through has Lindsey knowing full well what’s happening to them from an emotional standpoint, but also financially.

“I have ridiculous trauma to overcome,” Lindsey explained. “My work family would also attest that I’ve worked really hard to keep it all going. If we aren’t here or she’s not admitted, I’ve been at work. Lots of times it’s the very next day. The reality is Ferris’s life has been financially devastating and I really just want to be able to maintain the quality of life we’ve had. For my big girls and for Ferris.

“Even if we get to make our way home . . . I know now this will never be over.”

While the Backmeyers do have a home in Kamloops, they have been in a rental in Vancouver since the last week of December. Pat has been doing a lot of commuting as he attends Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, with plans to become a registered nurse.

The whole family, including Lindsey’s mother, Leslie, thought they were on their way back to Kamloops last weekend, but then the call came saying that a kidney was available and transplant surgery had been scheduled.

“Living in limbo is pretty accurate,” Lindsey wrote, “or like a marathon that you never get to finish but always have to run. Feels like we are on a runaway train. It’s bumpy and scary and makes you nauseous and every once in awhile we get allowed off and create life and memories and then the train comes and we have no choice but to get back on.

“If and when we get to go home I need to give myself a bit of time before coming back. I never have done that before. Ever.”

In her plea to local businesses, McMillan asked that they contact her or donate to a GoFundMe page that has been set up to benefit the Backmeyers. That page is right here.



The WHL’s Regina hub swung into game action with two games on Friday. The Pats dropped a 6-3 decision to the Prince Albert Raiders in the second game, with highly touted Regina F Connor Bedard, 15, scoring his first two goals at 5:01 and 5:49 of the second period. . . . In the earlier game, the Moose Jaw Warriors got past the Brandon Wheat Kings, 4-3, in OT. . . .

Meanwhile, the Portland Winterhawks announced that their final 11 home games of this developmental season will be played at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. Their first home game, on March 21, is to be played at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash. . . .

As first reported by Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post earlier this week, Shaun and Gavin Semple of the Brandt Group of Companies now own all of the Regina Pats. They had owned 50 per cent and now have purchased the other half from Todd Lumbard and Anthony Marquart. The move was unanimously approved by the WHL’s board of governors on Friday. Shaun Semple has replaced Marquart as the franchise’s governor. Lumbard, a former goaltender with the Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings, had been the team president; he remains with the organization as an advisor.


Menu


The BCHL has received the all-clear for the return of game play from provincial government and health officials. The league plans to set up pods in five league centres — Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Penticton, Port Alberni and Vernon — with three or four teams in each place. The abbreviated season will begin the first week of April and the hope is that each team will play 18 or 20 games before it ends. . . . The Wenatchee, Wash., Wild opted out of this season because the U.S.-Canada border is closed to non-essential travel. That leaves the BCHL with 17 teams that could being play in April, although the league has given teams a couple of days to make that decision. . . .

Meanwhile, the AJHL had 13 of its 15 teams back playing games on Friday for the first time since Nov. 21. The final all-clear came earlier in the day when it announced that its third round of testing featured 389 players and staff, and no positives. . . . The Canmore Eagles and Lloydminster Bobcats are the only two teams not playing, both having opted out. . . . On Friday, five games were played in five different venues with all teams playing in their home arenas.


Deadspin has put together a brief slideshow that provides some first-person information on a handful of high-profile athletes who have contracted COVID-19 and their experiences. It’s right here and well worth a look.

One slide features Demi Washington, a Vanderbilt basketball player. Washington, 19, had a mild case, but wasn’t allowed to return to play until she had a cardiac MRI. That test uncovered acute myocarditis.

“It’s horrifying to think that, without that MRI, I would have gone back out there and played and something could have gone wrong,” she wrote for The Athletic. “I could have passed out on the court. I could have died. I saw what happened to Keyontae Johnson and it terrified me. After he collapsed, he was ultimately diagnosed with acute myocarditis — just like me. I wonder how many other athletes are playing with it right now and have no idea.”


Quarantine


The Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team had its season come to an end on Thursday with the news that one player tested positive. That knocked the Blue Devils (13-11) out of the ACC tournament and may have taken away any chance they had of qualifying for March Madness. The last time Duke was in the NCAA tournament was 1995. . . . “If they do get an invitation, it will be a basketball equivalent of a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award,’ Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, wrote on Friday. “This year’s Duke squad is not nearly as powerful as the ones that fans have come to expect for most of the Mike Krzyzewski Era in Durham.” . . . On Friday came word that No. 16 Virginia had to pull out of the ACC tournament because of a positive test, thus forfeiting a semi-final game to Georgia Tech. Virginia no doubt will get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Virginia won the title in 2019; there was no tournament a year ago. . . . Also on Friday, No. 11 Kansas withdrew from the Big 12 tournament after a positive test. The Jayhawks were to play No. 13 Texas in a semifinal game, so the Longhorns now are into the final. . . . Florida International and North Carolina A&T are among smaller schools that have had to withdraw from tournaments. . . . The 2021 tournament is scheduled to begin on Friday in Indianapolis. . . . The Sports Curmudgeon has more on the tournament right here.


You will recall that Clarkson shut down its men’s hockey program for this season earlier in the week and there was speculation that the move was virus-related. College Hockey News reported via Twitter on Thursday that it “was a school decision based not on positive COVID tests — but on a party attended by most of the team that broke the school’s COVID safety protocols.”

——

College Hockey News also reported that the Bentley Falcons (5-11-0) had withdrawn from the Atlantic hockey tournament. One week earlier, Holy Cross pulled out before the first round began. . . . Bentley had beaten Air Force to move into a second-round best-of-three series against American International, which now gets a bye into the semifinals. . . . From CHN: “For its part, AIC hasn’t played since January, due to its own COVID-19 issues and that of other league teams. By the team of the semifinals, the Yellowjackets will have gone almost seven weeks without a game. Bentley missed most of January with COVID issues, though played most of February.”


Once again, thanks for asking how things are going in B.C., as government and health officials work on loosening some restrictions . . .

Robyn Crawford, CKNW/Global BC — 648 new cases; no new deaths; 255 in hosp, 67 in ICU; 5,070 active; 9,155 in isolation; 79 new variant cases (total at 717).

CBC News — Alberta is reporting 425 new cases of COVID-19 and 2 additional deaths. And 365 more people have recovered from coronavirus.

CBC News — Number of new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan climbs again with 176. That pushes the province’s 7-day average up to 134; 3 additional deaths have also been recorded.

CBC News — Manitoba announces 104 new cases of COVID-19, the 1st time the number has been above 100 since February 18. The province’s 7-day average now rises to 74. Health authorities also say there has been 1 additional death.


——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.



JUST NOTES: Former WHL F Ryan Hollweg is the new head coach of the U18 AAA Vancouver North West Hawks. Hollweg, 37, played 233 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers over five seasons (1999-2004) before going on to a pro career that included 228 NHL games. He finished up playing (2012-18) with HC Plzen in the Czech Extraliga. Hollweg was the North West Hawks’ associate coach for two seasons (2018-20) under Chris Shaw.


Wreath

Lots to be done before WHL’s “firm” start date gets here . . . U Sports has cancelled its winter championships . . . U of Ottawa suspends football team

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, took part in a virtual gathering with various media on Thursday afternoon, and it’s obvious that the WHL is doing a whllot of wishing and hoping.

It really doesn’t have any choice.

Robison talked about a lot of things, starting with the move — from Oct. 2 and then Dec. 4 — to Jan. 8 as a “firm” starting date for a regular season. But through his presentation there really wasn’t anything definitive, all of which shows just how much work is left before the WHL can return to the ice. And as for Jan. 8 being a firm date, well, it may be firm in the WHL office but is it firm in the COVID-19 head office?

The fact of the matter is that the virus is dictating the terms, as it has been doing since March. In the absence of a vaccine, which remains months away from us, the virus will decide if/when the WHL will get a regular season rolling, just like it is deciding what NFL and U.S. college football games will be played.

I won’t go through Robison’s effort piece by piece, but you are able to watch it at the WHL website. Nor will I detail Thursday’s numbers on the virus front, suffice to say that things aren’t looking good in Western Canada, Oregon or Washington state. Of course, Christmas still is more than two months away. So we can hope that things change for the better between now and then.

In the end, we all are like the WHL — wishing and hoping.

——

With some junior A and junior B leagues having moved to a pay-to-play format, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was adamant on Thursday that his league won’t be moving that way.

On Thursday, according to an excellent Twitter thread put together by Trevor Redden of panow.com and the radio voice of the Raiders, Robison told media that the “WHL is responsible for 100 per cent of player expenses. That’s the arrangement and we intend to honour that. We have a commitment through player agreement, and that’s the model. Have to admire ownership . . .”

According to Redden, Robison also made it clear that “owners have made it clear they’re committed to the players and their development. They’re prepared to meet commitment despite financial implications.”

Robison, Redden tweeted, re-affirmed his “admiration for owners resolving to make it work.”

Robison didn’t mentioned WHL and team employees who have been furloughed or laid off, some of them since March.


Princess


A few weeks ago, my wife, Dorothy, who had a kidney transplant seven years ago, took in an organ transplant-related webinar that included a doctor who specializes in liver transplants. He said something that really stuck with me:

“You won’t find the virus; it will find you.”

So allow me to flash back to early September when the junior B Kootenay WranglersInternational Junior Hockey League was working to get its season off the ground. As it turned out, the 100 Mile House Wranglers were one of three teams to opt out of the 2020-21 season.

As Wranglers president Greg Aiken told Kelly Sinoski of the 100 Mile Free Press:

“We’re concerned for the health of our community, just bringing 35 foreign bodies to our town is a risk. To me, that just doesn’t make sense with this pandemic going on. Who knows what is going to happen with the kids going back to school . . . I can guarantee there’s going to be a spike in cases. It’s not getting better.”

At the time, Aiken added that “we’re all disappointed. There’s nothing I want more than to bring hockey back this season but not with this risk. Our hospital would be overwhelmed. For seven years we’ve had tremendous support from the town, our fans, sponsorship. They’re our lifeblood so we want to make sure we don’t put them at risk.”

Thinking about their community and its health workers has moved the Wranglers to the top of my list of favourite teams.


There are reports that the Quebec government will be giving the QMJHL $12 million in subsidies to spread among its 12 Quebec-based franchises. That will be part of $70 million that is ticketed to the sports and leisure community, according to the Journal de Quebec.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons shut down their facility on Thursday after there was a positive test within their organization. The Falcons (0-5), who fired GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn on Sunday, are scheduled to visit the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. . . .

Fred Dean, a hall-of-fame defensive end with the San Francisco 49ers, died on Wednesday of complications connected to COVID-19. He was 68. In 11 seasons with the 49ers, he won two Super Bowls and was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1981. . . .

U Sports, the governing body for university sports in Canada, has cancelled 2021 national championships for all of its winter sports. Dick White, the interim CEO, said in a news release: ““Following consultations with the four conferences, we agreed that student-athlete safety remains our top priority. It is not logistically possible for teams to be travelling across the country at this time.” . . . Sports impacted are men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, swimming, track and field, volleyball and wrestling. Curling championships were cancelled earlier by Curling Canada. . . .

The U of Ottawa has suspended its football team after five players tested positive. According to a statement received by CTV News Ottawa, the training program was shut down until further notice after the university received reports that some players were not following self-isolation rules. . . .

The U of New Mexico is scheduled to open its Mountain West Conference schedule on Oct. 24. But, the Albuquerque Journal reported, it had to pause all football workouts on Thursday after eight players and a coach came up positive. . . .

No. 8 Cincinnati won’t be playing at the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes on Saturday after an undisclosed number of positive tests with the Bearcats forced the game to be postponed. It has been rescheduled for Dec. 5. . . . Four games that had been scheduled for Saturday now have been postponed. . . .

Remember reading here about the Yale hockey team that shut things down a few days ago because of six positive tests. Well, the Yale Daily News reports that the total now is 18. . . .

WGME in Maine reported Thursday that “as many as 400 youth hockey players in southern Maine are in quarantine after a referee tested positive.” . . . Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine’s CDC director, said: “This is an individual who was on the ice as a referee for a total of eight games over a two-day period.” . . . One of the teams that played in that stretch is coached by former WHLer Brad Church (Prince Albert, 1993-97). He and his son, Weston, have both been tested and were told they are negative. “We’re taking this very, very seriously,” Church said. According to Church, players were masks until they get on the ice. But, he said, “Refs have not being wearing masks.”


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Scattershooting on a Friday night while remembering the Pocket Rocket . . .

Scattershooting

Henri Richard, the Pocket Rocket, died on Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84. . . . When he first earned a spot on the Montreal Canadiens’ roster, many observers felt he was in training camp only because his brother, Maurice (Rocket) Richard, was the Habs’ star. However, Henri earned a spot and before he was done he had won 11 Stanley Cups. . . . The great Roy MacGregor remembers the great Henri Richard right here.


While the Everett Silvertips topped the visiting Tri-City Americans, 6-0, in front of an announced crowd of 4,912 on Friday night, all signs point to the WHL at some point having to postpone, cancel or move games involving at least those teams in the Pacific Northwest.

The numbers in the Puget Sound region continue to rise, with the number of COVID-19 cases having reached 79 on Friday, including at least 15 deaths. The number of positive whltests are going up, up, up as more and more people are tested. The U.S., it seems, is woefully behind when it comes to testing citizens who are requesting tests, so no one has any idea just how many ill people are out there.

Meanwhile, everywhere one looks experts are recommending the shutting down of events that draw hundreds or thousands of fans, while the list of impacted events continues to grow.

On Friday, for example, Austin, Texas, declared a local disaster and that resulted in organizers cancelling the 34th annual South by Southwest — a music, technology and film festival that a year ago drew 417,000 people, many of them from international destinations. It was to have run from March 13 to 22.

In Seattle, organizers of Emerald City Comic Con, which was to begin next Thursday, announced that they were postponing their event.

But back to the WHL . . .

It could be that the WHL ends up playing in empty, or near-empty, arenas, either because fans are barred from games or just stop showing up.

“Each individual has to weigh their own risk tolerance,” Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday. “If things remain as they are, or get worse, I think the prudent thing to do would be to not go to things that are not essential.

“And I consider sporting events not essential.”

Dr. Swartzberg also told Killion:

“I’m looking at this through the lens of a physician and public health professor. If things continue as they have been, I would encourage people not to go (to large events). It’s very hard for me to condone the idea of doing anything that throws more gasoline on the fire.”

Meanwhile, a public health board in San Jose suggested that the NHL should be postponing games; the league and the San Jose Sharks chose to ignore the suggestion.

“The National Hockey League’s decision to reject a public health board’s recommendation to postpone a game in San Jose on Thursday night is being criticized by several infectious disease experts who say indoor venues such as NHL arenas are ideal breeding grounds for the spread of coronavirus,” reported TSN’s Rick Westhead.

“The Santa Clara County department of public health recommended Thursday that the NHL delay a game in San Jose between the Sharks and the Minnesota Wild. There are at least 24 documented cases of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, Calif., the public health department said, with four new cases on Friday, adding that avoiding large gatherings may help slow the spread of the virus.”

The Sharks played Thursday before a season-low announced attendance of 14,517 in the SAP Center. On Friday, the Sharks said that Saturday night’s game against the visiting Ottawa Senators will be played as scheduled. On Friday night, the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda entertained the San Diego Gulls at the SAP Center.

Dr. Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, an assistant professor in the department of health sciences and biology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., told Westhead that the NHL is being “unwise” in not following the recommendation.

“The virus is now community circulating, meaning you don’t have to go to a country like Iran or China to get it,” Dr. DeWitte-Orr told Westhead. “It can be transmitted by respiratory droplets and at an NHL game you have a lot of people in a close proximity and a lot of people yelling. There are going to be a lot of respiratory droplets in the air. If someone with coronavirus touches seats and railing and then you touch those spots and touch your face, you’re exposed to the virus. It’s not going to help you that after the game those surfaces are cleaned.”

Westhead’s story is right here.


JUST NOTES: Speculation on the Kootenays has Derek Stuart as the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who will begin play in the BCHL next season. At present, Stuart is in his third season as GM/head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The Dynamiters are into the second round of the KIJHL playoffs. . . . Hey, Tim Hortons, I’m thinking that you have the worst commercial on TV today. For the record, it isn’t anywhere close to being lit.

Ayres 2
David Ayres, the most famous EBUG in hockey history, was in Saskatoon on Friday night as the Blades beat the Regina Pats, 2-1 in OT. Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, was signing autographs and promoting organ donation at the WHL game. (Photo: Darren Steinke)

Scattershooting on a Sunday while wondering what Rory will do with all that dough . . .

Scattershooting


Here’s Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Mariners infielder Tim Beckham drew an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Considering he’s been hitting .211 since April 7, here’s hoping he kept the sales slip.”



When Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, is having trouble falling asleep, he often turns to reading The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm. Such was the case the other night, after which he emailed:

“I just ran across this entry and thought it might interest you — Canada: Free health care. Low crime. Birthplace of William Shatner. Two out of three ain’t bad.”

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Here is The Sports Curmudgeon, once more: “I fear that Thursday was just a tad scary. CBS Sports streamed a six-hour program devoted entirely to Fantasy Football. The key parts of that previous sentence are: 1. Six-hour, and 2. Fantasy. . . . Even a 12-year-old boy with his first access to a Victoria’s Secret catalog would find something else to do in less than six hours. Can Armageddon be far off?”


I’m note sure what is a greater sign of the impending Armageddon — six-hour fantasy football shows, the fires in the Amazon rainforest, or the Hasbro Toy Company owning Death Row Records.



Happy retirement to Brad Rock of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. He’s done as of month’s end, after more than 40 years with the newspaper. His one-liners have populated this column on more than a few occasions over the years. . . . Here is Deseret News columnist Doug Robinson on Rock: “Rock is a writer first and a fan, well, never. He doesn’t even watch sports on TV unless he has to for the job, and he never roots for one team over another; free of loyalties and prejudices, he could write honest accounts with an objectivity and professional distance that are disappearing fast in the era of advocacy journalism. You know he’s doing his job well when readers accuse him of being a BYU fan and a Utah fan the same week.” . . . Robinson’s complete piece is right here.


It was a really bad week for the NFL and Major League Baseball. . . . The NFL took a whole lot of criticism, and deservedly so, for the debacle in Winnipeg on Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers played an exhibition game on an 80-yard field. . . .

However, that was nothing compared to the weekend that MLB had. For some reason, MLB’s pooh-bahs chose to have all teams wearing either black or white uniforms — visiting teams wore black, home sides wore white. And it was beyond awful. . . . A fan should be able to tell who is playing by the uniforms, but with the New York Yankees in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers — two teams with iconic uniforms — you had no idea at a glance just who was on the field, and it was the same in every MLB park. . . . On top of that, players were permitted to put nicknames on the name bars, but home uniform tops had white lettering on top of white. . . . In most parks, the umpires wore black shirts. So whenever the visitors were on defence it looked like they had a seven-man infield. . . . Oh, and the home team pitchers wore all white except for their caps, which were black. . . . Ai-eeee! What a horrible, horrible experience the whole thing was. Here’s hoping we aren’t subjected to anything like this again.


You may have noticed that Oakland punter A.J. Cole arrived in the Manitoba capital wearing a t-shirt that had “Winnipeg, Alberta” on its front. . . . Patti Dawn Swansson, aka The River City Renegade, informs that  Winnipeg, Alberta, t-shirts and hoodies “are available from TeeChip on the Internet. They come in sizes S-XXXXXXL and nine colours. I’m not saying I endorse them, but they might make a good gag gift for family and friends unfortunate enough to live in Wild Rose Country.” . . . Swansson’s latest musings, readable as always, are right here.


Department of Pet Peeves — Writers who use “morning” and “a.m.” in the same sentence, as in “the opening game is scheduled to start on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.” . . . Posters that indicate a tournament or event is the “first annual.” There isn’t such a thing. The first one is the inaugural; the second one is the second annual. . . . To be continued.


Headline at RollingStone.com: Our Very Smart President Wants to Nuke Hurricanes, Report Claims

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Scattershooting on a Sunday evening while waiting for the heat to arrive . . .

Scattershooting

“A pro surfer attacked by a shark off Jacksonville Beach, Fla., nixed a hospital visit so he could go to a bar and share his story,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “And then it was time to go back, grab his board and hang nine.”


“CFL commish Randy Ambrosie has been known to puff out his ample chest and gab about transparency. So how about ordering the Argos to release the head count at BMO Field, Commish Randy. We know it’s as bad as a bear’s breath, but why is the number a secret?” . . . It is because of notes like this that Patti Dawn Swansson, aka The River City Renegade, is a regular read here. . . . Her latest file is right here.

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Here’s one more bit from Swansson, and, yes, I wholeheartedly agree with her: “Why are our teenage boys playing high-level hockey tournaments during the dog days of August? Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky weren’t on the ice 12 months a year. Why should these kids be?”


Water


If you were able to watch the visiting Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in one or both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday, you got a real treat — Bob Costas handled the play-by-play in place of Michael Kay, who is recovering from surgery to repair a vocal cord. . . . A real baseball fan, Costas didn’t forget to mention the late Pete Sheehy in one of his many anecdotes. . . . His presence meant lots of anecdotes and not a lot of numbers. . . . With Costas, Paul O’Neil and David Cone in the booth, it was an enlightening double-dip. Unless you are a Red Sox fan, of course, because the Yankees swept the Beantowners, 9-2 and 6-4.


Dorothy and I live about 20 km east of Kamloops, just off the Trans-Canada Highway. Spent some time on that highway this weekend and I just want to thank all the Albertans for visiting with us and spending their money here, especially on our over-priced gasoline.

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BTW, we were driving west on the Trans-Canada Highway going up the big hill that runs through Kamloops on Sunday afternoon. A driver in front of us moved into the left lane in preparation of passing a big rig, so I moved over, too. We both were doing 100 km/h in a 100 zone. I checked the rearview mirror and the driver behind me was giving me the palms-up ‘get the hell outta my way’ gesture, never mind that there was a car in front of us. . . . Once we got past the big rig and back into the right lane, Ms. Palms-Up jammed it to the floor and zoomed past in a cloud of exhaust. . . . The real miracle of our highways is that there aren’t more accidents, especially when you consider the number of idiots who think they are the only ones on them.



NFL training camps are rolling, which means that Hard Knocks, the show produced by NFL Films and HBO, is about to hit the air. (It starts on Tuesday.) . . . This time, it’s in the camp of the Oakland Raiders. . . . Here’s Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle setting the stage: “That damn ‘Hard Knocks’ will be a distraction, says the football team that has sucked for decades, was homeless for months before sulking back to the Oakland Coliseum, and recently signed one player who arrived in a hot-air balloon, and another who will sit out two games because, according to a police report, he allegedly threatened to kill mortuary workers when they wouldn’t let him cut off his dead father’s head for research.”


Genetics


If you are headed for Kamloops, you should know that the forecast is for heat — 35 C on Monday, 36 on Tuesday, 35 on Wednesday . . . and so it goes.


After another “retirement’ by Urban Meyer, Jack Finarelli, who can be found at SportsCurmudgeon.com, noted: “If you look at leaving a job as a head coach in college football as akin to divorce, then Meyer is the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the Gridiron.”



The pooh-bahs who run PAC-12 football are crying in their milk because of what they see as a lack of attention from fans who live in the Eastern time zone. So the deep thinkers are contemplating starting games at 9 a.m. Pacific time. . . . As someone who lives in the Pacific time zone, I will say that this is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard. . . . The afore-mentioned Jack Finarelli, The Sports Curmudgeon, offers: “Starting games at 9 a.m. Pacific means that the entire atmosphere of PAC-12 games will change. Instead of energetic and aroused fans in the stadium who might not be able to pass a breathalyzer test because they have been tailgating/partying for six hours before the game, the fans will be hungover from Friday night and/or still asleep in the dorms/frat houses. . . . The fan-experience at college football games is built around energy and adrenaline and enthusiasm. Some of those intangibles will be in shorter supply if the games start on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.” . . . But, hey, those TV numbers!


Pete Carroll, the head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, mentioned the other day that L.J. Collier, a first-round draft pick, would be out “a bit” with an ankle injury. Brett Miller, a sports desker at the Seattle Times, tweeted: “Carroll famously undersells injuries, so I’m not even certain Collier is alive after reading this.”


MRI