Terrific series on Wheat Kings wraps up . . . Robison says “95 per cent” of WHL players, staff fully vaccinated . . . Virus loose in Pil Country?


After posting this, I’m outta here for a bit.

I’m taking some time off to prepare for the fourth or fifth or sixth wave, or whatever it is, that now has its tentacles all around us.

Health officials in B.C. revealed 717 new positives on Friday — up from 513 on Thursday — which tells me that we are headed back to mandatory masking and more restrictions. For what? The third time? Fourth time? I actually have lost count.

How many times do we have to go through this before the people who make these decisions reach the conclusion that we can’t just keep doing this? Open . . . close . . . open . . . close . . . on with the mask . . . off with the mask . . . on with the mask . . . off with the mask . . .

Oh, and by the way, one of these days it may dawn on the decision-makers that recommendations don’t carry a whole lot of water with a number of people. Yes, it’s far past time to ditch the carrot and go to the stick . . . make it a big stick.

I don’t know who said it first — “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” — but that someone surely had today’s society in mind. Because that is exactly what we keep doing. Over and over and over and over and over again.

I mean, really, are we any further ahead today than we were a year ago?

Of course we are, if only because there are a whole lot of people who are fully vaccinated. But B.C. is running more than 700 positives a day and Alberta is above 500. Alberta announced 582 positives on Friday, its third straight day above 500. Earlier in the day, the Alberta government backtracked on plans to lift most of its restrictions on Monday, saying that it will revisit things in six weeks.

What has become obvious is that the Delta variant is running the show now, and six weeks from now might not be much better, if at all, than what we are living with today.

While I’m away, get vaccinated, if you haven’t already, wear your mask when indoors and wash your hands . . . and stay safe.

If you haven’t already, you really should check out the 17-day series that Perry BrandonBergson put together for the Brandon Sun. It’s an oral history of the Brandon Wheat Kings’ 1978-79 season, the one in which they lost only five regular-season games, then went on to win the WHL championship before losing 2-1 in OT to the Peterborough Petes in the Memorial Cup final. That final game was to have been played in the Montreal Forum, but ended up in the arena in Verdun, Que., all of which is a story in itself. . . . Anyway, the gang at The Sun ran a whole lot of stories that appeared in the paper during that season, and Bergson interviewed almost every player who was on the Wheat Kings’ roster. Those interviews provide great insight into exactly what a WHL team goes through as it rides a bus through the grind of a championship season. . . . The series concludes in Saturday’s Sun, after which Bergson should take a bow.


Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, says that 95 per cent of his league’s players and team staff are fully vaccinated. He made that statement in an WHL2interview with Guy Flaming on The Pipeline Show.

At the same time, Robison said the WHL isn’t following the OHL and QMJHL in mandating vaccinations, although he admitted that may change.

“We have strongly recommended to our players, staff and hockey operations side to be fully vaccinated in time for training camp and start of the regular season,” Robison said. “We have not taken the position of mandating it yet. . . . Through education and discussions with players and staff we’re over 95 per cent currently vaccinated. We’re not sure we’ll need to take the mandated position.

“But, quite frankly, it’s in everyone’s best interest to be vaccinated in order to play in our league because of the cross-border travel with the U.S., and currently some restrictions that are in place in Manitoba for quarantine if you’re not vaccinated. I think it really speaks to the fact that everyone needs to be vaccinated; we’re hopeful we’ll be able to get to 100 per cent and we’ll deal with those circumstances where there are some exceptions along the way.”

The WHL’s 22 teams will be opening training camps on Sept. 1.

When Flaming asked why the WHL hasn’t mandated vaccinations, Robison replied:

“That’s something we are continuing to consider. We started out in the process (hoping) that the restrictions would be relaxed further. That hasn’t occurred so as a result of that we may have to take some further measures and mandate it. But at this particular stage we haven’t taken that big step.”

You are able to hear the complete interview right here, and you should know it covers a lot more than COVID-19.

Some headlines from Friday in WHL territory . . .

CBC News — British Columbia announced 717 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday — the highest daily case count since May 7 when the number was 722.

KIRO7 Seattle — COVID-stricken Oregon deploys National Guard to hospitals.

Daniel E. Slotnik, The New York Times — Oregon will deploy at least 500 National Guard troops to help its hospitals deal with a flood of coronavirus patients, as the state faces the largest wave of infections it has seen during the pandemic, the state’s governor said on Friday. . . . The governor, Kate Brown, said that hospitals were at risk of becoming overwhelmed, with 733 Oregonians hospitalized with severe cases of Covid-19, including 185 in intensive care. . . . The surge comes despite Oregon’s relatively high rate of vaccination, a fact that Ms. Brown noted in a videotaped address. “I know this is not the summer many of us envisioned with over 2.5 million Oregonians vaccinated against Covid-19,” Ms. Brown said. “The harsh and frustrating reality is that the Delta variant has changed everything.”


The junior A Buffalo Jr. Sabres, who play in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, announced Friday that they won’t play in 2021-22 “due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on cross-border travel.” They also sat out whatever there was of the 2020-21 season. . . . If you’re in B.C., this makes one wonder about the immediate future of the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild and the junior B Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Neither the Wild nor the Braves played in their respective leagues in 2020-21.

Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, was making a case one day this week for these being the Dog Days of August because, as he put it, “while we are sweltering in the heat and humidity, there is a dearth of juicy sporting attractions to take our minds off our discomfort.” . . . I was trying to find a way to disagree with him, but I gave it up after he wrote this: “Finally, to demonstrate what I mean by having a dearth of things to write about in these Dog Days of August, consider this headline from (Tuesday) at CBSSports.com in the world of college football — LSU’s live tiger mascot, Mike VII, is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, prior to Thursday’s Field of Dreams MLB game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa: “Wouldn’t it add a comforting realism if the White Sox players actually conspire with real gamblers to throw this game?”



CTV News Regina — The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is warning of an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the Pil Country section at Mosaic Stadium at the Roughriders game on August 6. The SHA said a person or persons attended the game while infectious with COVID-19, between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Contact tracing is underway, however, the SHA added that the location of the case or cases in the Pil Country end zone makes contact tracing efforts difficult.


CBC News — The University of Saskatchewan announced Friday it expects all students, faculty and staff returning to campus this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a move the U of S faculty association and student union have been calling for. (Note: The U of Saskatchewan was the first Canada West school to mandate vaccinations.)


Global News — The University of Regina is following the steps of other Canadian universities by requiring all faculty, staff and students to have both doses of COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1.


A Friday afternoon tweet from Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada: “NHL sent a memo updating vaccination requirements to its teams: ‘Any person whose job, role, position or access entails or entitles them to have personal interactions (within 12 feet) with Club Hockey Operations personnel (including Players) are required to be Fully Vaccinated.’ ”

He added: “There are some limited exceptions — such as valet parking attendants. NHL/NHLPA protocols for players are not yet completed.”


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Cozens to have ‘procedure’ on thumb. . . . Hamblin’s knee injury not serious. . . . Saskatchewan all atwitter over new Gainer


F Andrew Clark (Brandon, 2005-09) has signed a one-year contract with Langenthal (Switzerland, Swiss League). Last season, in 52 games with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 49 assists. He led the league in assists and was tied for the lead in points. . . .

D Juraj Valach (Tri-City, Vancouver, Regina, Red Deer, 2006-08) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 44 games with with Piráti Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had three goals and five assists. . . .

D Jonathon Blum (Vancouver, 2005-09) has signed a two-year contract with Färjestad Karlstad (Sweden, SHL). Last season, with Dinamo Minsk (Belarus, KHL), he had three goals and seven assists in 35 games. . . .

F Colton Gillies (Saskatoon, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract extension with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL). Last season, he had one goal and four assists in 35 games. . . .

F Mark McNeill (Prince Albert, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 56 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL), he had eight goals and 17 assists. . . .

F David Rutherford (Vancouver, Spokane, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract with Lyon (France, Ligue Magnus). Last season, with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite), he had 18 goals and 39 assists in 54 games.


F Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes suffered an injury to his left thumb during the Buffalo Sabres’ development camp on Saturday. He absorbed a hip check — it was a clean hit — and in trying to soften the landing, he put out his left hand, only to be injured when he landed awkwardly. . . . The above tweet from the Sabres came one day after Cozens was seen by a specialist. . . . While the thumb wasn’t broken in the mishap, it appears to have been dislocated, so he will undergo a ‘procedure’ today. . . . The Sabres selected Cozens with the seventh-overall pick of the NHL’s 2019 draft.

Guy Flaming, the owner, operator and host of The Pipeline Show (patreon.com/thepipelineshow), asked fans on Twitter the other day: “If there was ONE thing that you could change/add/remove from the Canadian Hockey League, what would it be and why?”

Some responses:

“I’d add another OA player to teams. Improves the overall hockey fans get to watch and puts a player who’s not quite ready for major junior back in midget. Improving the on-ice competition also improves development of all players.”


“More imports. With the U.S. and Euro junior leagues catching up to the CHL in quality, while also allowing players to keep NCAA eligibility, the CHL needs to cut into that. One way would be increasing imports to 4 or 5 up from 2. Cuts into European junior League talent.”


“A way better TV deal with regional and national broadcasts.”


“An online streaming service, where fans across Canada pay $60 a year to get any regular-season game of any team and then $30 for the playoffs, regulate the streams so they are good quality and call it a day.”


“WHL should change the bantam draft age from 15 to 16. Makes the draft more entertaining for the average fan because there will be a chance for the players to play immediately, and it wouldn’t be as much of a crapshoot for the teams.”


“Fighting. There is no need for teenagers be fighting in the CHL. Too many are paying the price with their health both now and down the road.  Really can anyone give a valid reason as to why teens are fighting in the CHL? Everyone else is banning it; time for the CHL to get rid of it.”


“Memorial Cup hosted by a U.S. team.”


“I’d add a Canadian U-17 team that would play games in all three major junior leagues and be our team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. I love the USA hockey model in the USHL with U-18 and U-17 teams.”


“Lighten the schedule a little. More time for skills development practice. More time for workouts and recovery. More time for personal time, mental health.”


Flaming also tweeted that he is preparing to interview Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, for an upcoming show. Perhaps Flaming could ask the WHL commish about a regular-season schedule that has the Portland Winterhawks and Prince George Cougars playing each other four times in six days. Seriously! They will meet Dec. 3 and 4 in Portland, then head north and go at it in Prince George on Dec. 7 and 8. . . . The WHL schedule always seems to have its share of quirks, but methinks it will be tough to top this one.

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.

You may have read here about F James Hamblin of the Medicine Hat Tigers suffering a dislocated kneecap while attending the Toronto Maple Leafs’ development camp last week. . . . It turns out that the injury isn’t as bad as it originally appeared. . . . He told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News that “the pain was horrible.” . . . And then it was over. Just like that. . . . “Once they stretchered me off,” he told McCracken, “just as we got to the room we kind of hit a bump and it popped back in, and it was basically instant relief,” said Hamblin. “It went from an unbearable pain to nothing in an instant.” . . . Hamblin will undergo surgery, albeit minor, to remove a piece of cartilage that was revealed to be loose during an MRI. . . . Hamblin had 33 goals and 44 assists in 67 regular-season games last season. The Tigers’ captain each of the previous two seasons, Hamblin is prepping for his fifth season in Medicine Hat. . . . McCracken’s complete story is right here.

The gang at capfriendly.com reports that Day 1 of NHL free-agent frenzy resulted in the signings of 125 contracts covering 239 years with a total cap hit of $218,986,001. The total contract dollars involved were $704,499,000. . . . On Tuesday, which was Day 2, the totals were 10 signings covering 19 years, with a total cap hit of $8,509,167, and total dollars of $17,525,000. . . .

Meanwhile, the first day of NBA free agency was Sunday. Teams promptly committed more than $3 billion to 45 players.

Geoff Grimwood has filed a lawsuit in B.C. Provincial Court in Kelowna, claiming that the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors owe him $29,166, plus interest, after he was fired late last season. . . . You may remember that Grimwood was the team’s interim general manager and head coach when he was fired early in the season, only to be rehired when the players chose not to practice and went on a hike instead. Grimwood was rehired after the boycott, but was fired again on Jan. 28 by owner Kim Dobranski. . . . Wayne Moore of castanet.net has more right here. . . . Grimwood now is the GM/head coach of the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders.

Matt Samson, the general manager of the junior B North Vancouver Wolf Pack, also will be the head coach in 2019-20. Samson stepped in as an assistant coach during last season and helped the club win the Pacific Junior Hockey League championship. . . . Samson takes over from Bayne Koen, who left after five years and now is the head coach of the bantam prep White team at Delta Hockey Academy. He also is the director of player development with the PJHL’s White Rock Whalers.

ICYMI, the Saskatchewan Roughriders throttled the visiting Toronto Argonauts on Monday evening, improving their CFL record to 1-2. You would think that the Roughriders having won their home-opener would be cause for excitement in Saskatchewan, but you would be wrong. Instead, football fans are confused/angered/upset/dismayed/up in arms (pick one, or insert your own) over the new-look Gainer. It seems that Gainer spent a chunk of his off-season at the Gopher Spa and came back with a brand new look. . . . There’s more right here.


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