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.

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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

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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

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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