Agent disappointed with WHL reaction to “racially motivated situation” after offender traded . . . Gut returning to Everett . . . Cougars release two forwards

Kai Uchacz, one of the players involved in some nasty stuff with the Seattle WHL2Thunderbirds, has been traded to the Red Deer Rebels for a second-round selection in the WHL’s 2021 draft.

From a WHL news release:

“Uchacz was removed from the roster of the Seattle Thunderbirds on March 25, 2021 following a thorough review by Thunderbirds staff after it was discovered he had directed racist comments and actions towards another player on the team.”

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reported in March that the Thunderbirds had released two forwards because of “a racist taunting incident in which the squad’s lone Black player alleged he was called a racial slur and a banana was waved in front of him.”

The target of the slur was F Mekai Sanders. His agent, Scott Norton, the president of Norton Sports Management, didn’t react to the trade in a favourable fashion on Friday.

Norton tweeted: “Enough is enough. Time for things to change in hockey and society!”

That was on top of this statement from Norton:

“On behalf of my client Mekai Sanders and myself, we are very disappointed that the Western Hockey League has not issued a statement or any disciplinary actions following the racially motivated situation that occurred on the Seattle Thunderbirds during the 2020-21 season. We appreciated the actions of general manager Bil La Forge and the Thunderbirds management during the season, but a league that claims ‘zero tolerance’ should have stepped up and dealt with the individuals as well. In light of today’s trade involving one of the offenders, we are calling upon the WHL Commissioner Rob (sic) Robison and the league to take action immediately.”

Norton also tweeted: “What is the point of having a zero tolerance policy if you do not hold your players to that standard? This was not a 1-time isolated, incident! How many chances does the victim get to live his life and chase his dreams?”

According to the WHL, Uchacz has undergone training and education in the areas of “anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion. . . . As a result of demonstrating significant progress with his ongoing education and genuine remorse for his prior behaviour, Uchacz’s return to the WHL has been fully endorsed by the diversity consulting agencies that conducted the training and education program.

“In addition, once he joins the Rebels, Uchacz will be required to continue his diversity and respect training in Red Deer. All WHL players are required to complete the Respect in Hockey educational program, which includes Respect in Sport certification, each season.”

Uchacz, 18, is from Calgary. The Thunderbirds selected him with the 10th overall pick of the WHL’s 2018 draft. . . . He had one goal and one assist in five games in 2018-19, then added two goals and six assists in 52 games in 2019-20. In 2020-21, he played three games with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints, picking up one assist. . . . According to Alan Caldwell, who keeps track of such things, the Rebels held two second-round picks in the 2021 draft — their own (No. 24) and the Winnipeg Ice’s (40). It’s not clear which pick was sent to Seattle.


The Everett Silvertips confirmed Friday that Czech F Michal Gut will be in their Everettlineup for 2021-22. He was the team’s rookie of the year for 2019-20 after putting up 13 goals and 23 assists in 51 games. . . . Gut, who will turn 19 on Aug. 16, stayed home for 2020-21 and played with HC Banik Sokolov in the Czech2. He finished with 10 goals and 11 assists in 20 games. . . . The Silvertips now have their two imports in Gut and Finnish F Niko Huuhtanen, who was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in last weekend’s NHL draft.


Golf


American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, the world champion, won’t compete at Covidthe Tokyo Olympics after testing positive. Kendricks, 28, had won a bronze medal at the 2016 Games. . . . Another pole vaulter, German Chiaraviglio of Argentina, also has tested positive and has been ruled out of the Games. . . . Organizers revealed 24 new positives on Thursday among Olympic personnel, with three of those being athletes. At that point, six American athletes had tested positive. . . . There’s more on the Kendricks story right here.


CTV Calgary — “Canada’s top doctors say Alberta’s decision to end isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19, or who have been in close contact with someone who has, could have ripple effects across the country.”



Entertainment Weekly: “Netflix is not taking the fourth wave lightly. It has become the first major Hollywood studio to require vaccinations on productions.”

Entertainment Weekly: “Broadways sets rule for audiences to be vaccinated and wear masks for performances through October. . . . Performers, backstage crew and theatre staff are also required to be vaccinated.”



CBC News: “The Australian city of Sydney experienced a rise in local COVID-19 cases and warned the outbreak would get worse. Australian authorities have sought help from the military to enforce a city-wide lockdown.”


Masks


It’s believed that more than 90 per cent of the players with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers are vaccinated. DE Nick Bosa, a Pro Bowler, isn’t one of them. “I’m just evaluating everything right now,” he told reporters on Thursday. “I haven’t made a decision quite yet.” . . . Meanwhile, the team’s entire coaching staff has been vaccinated.


Matthew Dolan, Detroit Free Press: “University of Michigan to require COVID-19 vaccination on all campuses. All students, faculty and staff on all three campuses of the University of Michigan are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, submit their vaccination information before the start of the fall.”


The 2022 World Women’s Curling Championship is scheduled to be played in PGPrince George, from March 19-27. The event was to have been held there in 2020 but was cancelled as the pandemic was just getting started. . . . The 2021 championship was decided in a bubble in Calgary. . . . The 2022 event will be held at the CN Centre, the home of the WHL’s Cougars. This means that the Cougars will finish the 2021-22 WHL regular season by playing seven of their last eight games on the road. . . . After entertaining the Victoria Royals on March 11 and 12, the Cougars will hit the road for four games — yes, four in a row — in Victoria on March 18, 19, 25 and 26, and singles against  the Vancouver Giants, Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets. The Cougars will return home to conclude their regular season on April 3 against the visiting Blazers. . . . The big question is: How will they spend their time between doubleheaders in Victoria? Do they stay on Vancouver Island or return home, then travel back to Victoria? Does it influence the decision if there is a playoff spot on the line?


Divorce


F Ethan Browne and F Dave Griffin have cleared WHL waivers and been released by the Prince George Cougars. . . . Browne, 20, is from Sherwood Park, Alta. The Everett Silvertips selected him 14th overall in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He got into nine games with Everett before landing in Prince George and playing four seasons there. In 149 regular-season games, he scored 19 goals and added 53 assists. . . . Griffin, 19, had one assist in three games with the Cougars in 2019-20 and one assist in 15 games during the 2021 development season. . . . The Cougars had six other 2001-born players on the roster that finished the 2021 season — F Connor Bowie, F Brendan Boyle, G Taylor Gauthier, F Jonny Hooker, D Majid Kaddoura and F Tyson Upper.


The New York Times — Starting Friday, Disney World in Florida will require guests older than 2 to wear masks in indoor spaces, reversing its policy that allowed fully vaccinated guests to go without them.



G Roman Basran, 20, has cleared WHL waivers after having released by the RocketsKelowna Rockets, so now is a free agent. He got into eight games in the 2021 development season, going 4-2-1, 3.86, .876. . . . Basran, from Vancouver, played 120 games over four seasons with the Rockets, finishing 52-41-11, 2.90, .905. He also put up five shutouts. . . . The Rockets finished that 2021 season with seven other 2001-born players on their roster — D Tyson Feist, D Jake Lee, D Kaedan Korczak, F Mark Liwiski, G Cole Schwebius, F Alex Swetlikoff and F Dallon Wilton. . . . That same roster also included two other goaltenders — Nicholas Cristiano, who will be 17 on Sept. 3, and Cole Tisdale, 19.


F Kishaun Gervais would appear to be finished with the Portland Winterhawks. PortlandGervais, who will turn 20 on Nov. 4, wrote on his Instagram account on Wednesday: “Thank you for making my dreams of playing in the WHL come true. #RoseCityForever.” . . . From Kamsack, Sask., he was a ninth-round pick in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. . . . He had eight goals and nine assists in 31 games in 2019-20, then added a goal and an assist in 19 games in the 2021 development season. . . . The roster with which Portland finished the season contained six more 2001-born players — Danish D Jonas Brondberg, F Jaydon Dureau, G Brock Gould, D Clay Hanus, F Reece Newkirk and D Kade Nolan. . . .

Off the ice, Gervais founded a clothing company — Teddy Wear Clothing — over a year ago and also has been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. . . . For more on Gervais, take a look at this story right here by Jeff D’Andrea of paNOW.

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Brian Pellerin has joined the Portland Winterhawks as an assistant coach. He’ll work alongside Mike Johnston, the organization’s vice-president, general manager and head coach, and assistant coach Don Hay. . . . Earlier in his career, Pellerin spent four seasons (2004-08) with the Winterhawks as an assistant coach. He also worked as associate coach with the Tri-City Americans (2014-20). . . . Pellerin is a former WHL player, having spent four seasons (1987-91) with the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . BTW, Pellerin is from Hinton, Alta., which is just a couple of slapshots west of Old Drinnan Town, the entrance to which is pictured at the top of this site.


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.


JUST NOTES: The Swift Current Broncos have signed Devan Praught as an assistant coach. From Summerside, P.E.I., he has been in Wilcox, Sask., at the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame for the past eight seasons. Praught, 33, has been the head coach of the U-18 AAA Hounds for five seasons. . . . Former WHLer Jason Christie has joined the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres as an assistant coach. Christie, 52, spent the previous four seasons as the head coach and vice-president of hockey operations with the ECHL’s Jacksonville IceMen. From Gibbons, Alta., he played four seasons (1986-90) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . .

Former WHL G Ty Rimmer has joined the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters as their goaltending coach. From Edmonton, Rimmer split 159 regular-season WHL games over four seasons (2009-13) between the Brandon Wheat Kings, Prince George Cougars, Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes. In Trail, he replaces Cam Basarab, who now is with the Rink Academy in Kelowna. . . . Kory Achtymichuk is the Prince George Cougars’ new equipment manager. From Wadena, Sask., he has spent the past four seasons as the Regina Pats’ assistant equipment manager. In Prince George, he takes over from Ramandeep (Chico) Dhanjal, who left to become the equipment manager with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks.


LSD

Scattershooting on a Thursday night while watching Ovie shoot for 700 . . .

Scattershooting

A lot of what follows was to have been up here earlier in the week, but I got caught up in the Trevor Weisgerber story that you may have read here. If you haven’t seen it, just scroll down a bit and ready about the hockey coach who is fresh off a kidney transplant . . . Apologies, then, if some of what follows is a touch dated . . .


Followers of the WHL should be looking to the Pacific Northwest and thanking the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds for having breathed some life into the 2019-20 season.

Considering that their home arenas are located a few slapshots apart — of course, with SeattleSeattle-area traffic that can turn into a long drive in terms of time — we should expect this to be a healthy rivalry.

Now, however, I think it’s fair to say that this is the WHL’s top rivalry.

On Saturday night, the Silvertips hung a 5-2 beating on the host Thunderbirds, who actually play in Kent, Wash.

There was some nastiness, of course, a lot of it stemming from a second-period incident in which Everett F Justyn Gurney delivered an unpenalized shoulder to the head of Seattle D Cade McNelly. Less than 24 hours later, the WHL suspended Gurney for two games.

It was after the game when things really heated up.

Dennis Williams, the Silvertips’ head coach, told Josh Horton of the Everett Herald: “I Everettdon’t know what (Seattle’s) mindset is. Do they not want to play hockey? The game of hockey is skilled. It’s making plays, it’s going up the ice. From the midway to the second on, we knew we had them beat.”

Williams also told Horton that he lifted No. 1 G Dustin Wolf in the third period because “I just don’t trust them.”

On Sunday afternoon, Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge responded, telling Andy Eide of ESPN radio in Seattle: “Their comments post-game got me riled up. We always are portrayed as the big bad Thunderbirds. We do play hard and I’m not apologizing for that nor will I ever. But I think them yelling down at us from their high horse has to stop.”

La Forge, who obviously had done some research, also told Eide: “I think the numbers speak for themselves. They’ve been suspended 52 games in the last three seasons, we’ve been suspended 40. Twenty-six of their (game) suspensions have been against us and only eight of our game suspensions have been against them. That tells me that we’re playing hard, I’m not going to deny that. But, we’re trying to play within the rules as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, Thom Beuning, the veteran play-by-play voice of the Thunderbirds, was tweeting:

The Silvertips and Thunderbirds are scheduled to face each other three more times this season, starting tonight (Friday) in Everett. Happy Valentine’s Day!

And the U.S. Division-leading Portland Winterhawks are sitting back, enjoying every second of this, and saying: “Have at ’er boys!”

(Eide’s complete story, with lots of great quotes from La Forge, who used to work for the Silvertips, is right here.)


A couple of days later, Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, did his best to stimulate the rivalry not only between his team and the Kelowna Rockets, but also Kamloops1between the cities. . . . Gaglardi didn’t just throw some fuel on the fire; he opened the gas bowser and left it running. . . . When Gaglardi chatted with Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, the Blazers (32-16-4), who had lost five in a row (0-4-1), were leading the B.C. Division, with the Rockets (23-25-3) 19 points back in fourth spot. . . . In the fall of 2018, you may recall, the WHL’s board of governors heard bids from Kamloops, Kelowna and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, each of whom wanted to play host to the 2020 Memorial Cup. . . . In the end, the governors chose the Rockets whose big boss, Bruce Hamilton, is the chairman of that board of governors. . . . “I think you know how I feel,” Gaglardi told Hastings. “Yeah, it was our turn. It should have been ours. It was the wrong thing. The league did the wrong thing. . . . Yeah, I’m sour, for sure. I’m disappointed.” . . . Hastings’ complete story is right here. . . . The Hurricanes (33-12-7), meanwhile, are second in the Central Division, six points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings (35-8-9).


Annoying


There is ample speculation that quarterback Tom Brady won’t be returning to the New England Patriots. However, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel doesn’t see him landing with the Buccaneers. Bianchi explained: “Not to be mean, but putting Tom Brady on the Bucs would be like putting the Mona Lisa in Room 217 of the Red Roof Inn.”


The San Francisco Giants have a manager (Gabe Kapler) and 13 coaches, none of whom chews tobacco. As Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The new day in baseball has been coming for a long time now, and with the Giants, it’s here. In the old days, not that long ago, everybody chewed and dipped, and drank. Including the batboy.” . . . If you aren’t aware, using smokeless tobacco is against MLB’s rules, but it’s against the law like speeding and not using turn signals are against the law. . . . “The Giants, though, might have the first tabacky-free MLB coaching staff in history. That’s a guess,” Ostler adds.


A recent gem from the readerboard at the El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas: “Did anyone catch the football game at the J-Lo and Shakira concert?”



Here’s Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times after an incident during a college basketball game: “Houston guard DeJon Jarreau bit Cincinnati’s Keith Williams on the calf during a loose-ball scrum, so he was ejected from the game. Or more precisely, extracted.”

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One more from Perry: “Who says there’s too much time between the NFL’s conference-championship games and the Super Bowl? Pamela Anderson and Jon Peters managed to get married — and separated — in that two-week span this year.”


A tip of the fedora to the Spokane Chiefs for honouring the Spokane Jets, who won the 1970 Allan Cup, a trophy that once was among the most famous in all of hockey. . . . Dan Thompson wrote a terrific story about the Jets and some of the men who returned to Spokane for Sunday’s game, and it’s all right here, from the pages of the Spokesman-Review.


Baseball


After a Saturday hockey game in which the Calgary Flames physically abused F Elias Pettersson of the host Vancouver Canucks, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out that the NHL has allowed its best players to be subjected to this kind of treatment for years and years. Hey, remember when Bobby Hull complained of it? . . . Campbell has more right here. . . . Could it be that the NHL is starting to realize that cross-checking is a problem? Maybe if the NHL does something about that, the WHL will, too.


Former Swift Current Broncos F Sheldon Kennedy has been named to the Order of Hockey In Canada, as well he should have been. He, along with Ken Dryden and Dr. Charles Tator, will be saluted at the Hockey Canada Foundation annual affair in Niagara Falls in June. . . . The WHL posted a story on its website announcing the honour and pointing out that Kennedy roller-bladed “across Canada to raise awareness and funds for sexual assault victims. Kennedy devoted his post-hockey career to child-abuse prevention and education.” . . . Unfortunately, the WHL didn’t bother to explain why Kennedy headed down this career path after bringing an end to his professional hockey career. It was, of course, because he — along with a number of teammates — was sexually abused on hundreds of occasions by Graham James, who then was the Broncos’ general manager and head coach. . . . I have written it before and here it is again: It is long past time for the WHL to unveil an award in Kennedy’s honour, one that should go to anyone who has been involved with the WHL at any level and has gone on to do outstanding work outside the walls of the league.



According to Forbes Magazine, the New York Knicks, who are one of the NBA’s poorest-run operations, carry the highest valuation of the Association’s 30 teams, at $4.6 billion. . . . Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports reacting to that: “The Knicks should serve as a true inspiration to anyone who dares to dream of being super rich despite sucking at pretty much everything. That’s the real American Dream.”


JUST NOTES: Congrats to Brent Kisio, who became the winningest head coach in the history of the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday night, when he put up victory No. 189. That put him one ahead of Bryan Maxwell. It’s believed that Kisio also has more friends among the zebras than Maxie did. . . . The Everett Silvertips have signed head coach Dennis Williams to a two-year contract extension. A tip of the fedora to Everett GM Garry Davidson for announcing the length of the extension — through the 2022-23 season. The 40-year-old Williams is in his third season with the Silvertips. His regular-season record is a rather solid 127-48-14, and he is 19-13 in the playoffs. . . . Earlier in the week, the Winnipeg Ice signed head coach James Patrick to a three-year extension. Patrick is in his third season with the Ice, which will make the playoffs this go-round for the first time on Patrick’s watch. . . .

Hey, Sportsnet, I think it’s time to suggest to your hockey analysts — hello there Garry Galley; hi Louie DeBrusk — that they stop talking when the play resumes. There’s a time for analysis/nattering and a time for play-by-play; when the puck is in the area of a goal, it’s play-by-play time. And we won’t even get into the fact that Galley talks far too much. . . . Nick Taylor, who calls Abbotsford, B.C., home, went wire-to-wire in winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the weekend, even starting down Phil Mickelson in the final round on Sunday. Here’s hoping that Taylor’s accomplishment isn’t forgotten by all of the year-end award voters come the closing weeks of 2020. . . .

The best part of a Major League Baseball game is the strategy involved; it’s why you don’t have to be a fan of one of the two teams involved in a game to enjoy it. That’s why I absolutely despise the rule announced this week involving a relief pitcher having to face at least three batters if he doesn’t end an inning. It also could spell the end to the left-handed specialist. . . . And a big happy birthday to Brad Hornung, a friend who turned 51 on Thursday.


Scattershooting on a Thursday night while wondering what it is about Regina drivers and their phones . . .

Scattershooting


The New York Yankees and host Houston Astros combined to use 14 pitchers — seven apiece — in Game 6 of the ALCS. The game, won 6-4 by the Astros as they won the series, took four hours nine minutes.

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On Oct. 13, 1960, Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski hit a ninth-inning home run to give the Pirates a 10-9 victory over the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. That game featured nine pitchers, five by the Yankees, and took two hours 36 minutes.

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Yes, Major League Baseball has a problem.


Messages


I really don’t know what was more fun — social media in the two weeks before the Canadian election or social media on Tuesday, the day after said election.


With the NBA regular season opening this week, Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, writes: “I would like to pose a rhetorical question to the players on the team that wins the NBA Championship next June. I am sure that many — if not most — of those players would choose not to accept an invitation to go to the White House as part of their championship celebration — and I have no problem at all with that. Here is my question: If President Xi Jinping of China invites the NBA champions to come to his office for an honorary visit, would you go, or would you stiff the President of the PRC? . . . Oh, while I am at it, let me ask Commissioner Silver what his position might be in this circumstance?”


Hey, Regina, this police officer wrote 1,134 distracted driving tickets all of last year. . . .


Patti Dawn Swansson, the River City Renegade, writes: “Tiger Woods has taken up the quill and will write a memoir to tell the ‘definitive story’ of his life as a golf prodigy and icon. So we’ll finally get the answer to that burning question: ‘When Elin found out about all the blonde cocktail waitresses and escorts that Tiger was shagging, did she attack him with a nine-iron or a pitching wedge?’ ” . . . There is a lot more Swansson gold right here.


AirportSecurity


“Some 310 birds crashed into the windows of the NASCAR Hall of Fame building in Charlotte, N.C.,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Even more stunning, the birds were chimney swifts, not racing pigeons.”


Here’s a memory from Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “Welterweight boxing champ Errol Spence spectacularly flipped his Ferrari, but he apparently got off easy with fairly minor injuries. Spence, unbelted, was ejected from his chariot. Flash back decades. A flight attendant asks then-heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali to fasten his seatbelt. Ali: ‘Superman don’t need no seat belt.’ Flight attendant: ‘Superman don’t need no airplane.’ ”



Alexander Gulyavtsev is the head coach of the KHL team Amur Khabarovsk. He is from the Russian city of Perm, as is Victor Gashilov, a referee in a game on Monday. During that game, an unhappy Gulyavtsev told Gashilov: “I’m going to set fire to your car in Perm.” . . . The KHL has fined the coach 300,000 rubles, or about US$4,700. . . . Gulyavtsev later said it was a joke. As he put it: “I just said car; it’s not as if I said apartment.” . . . The score in the game? Dynamo Moscow won, 5-1.


In all of hockey, there may be nothing more over-rated than the game-day morning skate. In an era when the importance of rest finally is being recognized, more and more teams are doing away with something that has been there seemingly forever. Here is Mike Sullivan, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, explaining why he has done away with them to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey: “It’s like, ‘Why does the whole league have morning skates?’ It reminds me of why my mother cut the side of the hams off before she cooked ‘em. I asked her, ‘Why do you cut the sides of the hams off?’ She said, ‘I don’t know. Because that’s how my mother taught me.’ So I asked my grandmother. I said, ‘Why do you cut the side of the hams off before you put ’em in the oven?’ She said, ‘That was easy. I didn’t have a pan that was big enough.’ That’s my analogy.”


Here’s Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Kenyan superstar runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon barrier in 1:59.40.2, a once unfathomable feat. I once covered 26.2 miles even quicker, but didn’t get credit because I was in a car.”


ICYMI . . . the WHL returned to Cranbrook on Thursday . . .