McCrimmon on verge of selling Wheat Kings? . . . KIJHL announces return-to-play plan, loses three teams . . . Two WHLers sign to play in Sweden


The smoke started with a query on Wednesday night. . . . An insider with one WHL team wanted to know if I had heard “any rumblings out of Brandon . . . BrandonWKregularthat the team is on the verge of being sold.” . . . I hadn’t. But it seems that there might be something happening, especially if the WHL’s board of governors has been alerted. . . . Kelly McCrimmon purchased one-third of the Wheat Kings from Bob Cornell in 1992 and became the sole owner in 2001. McCrimmon took a step back from the Wheat Kings when he joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, then an expansion team, as assistant general manager on Aug. 2, 2016. He moved up to general manager on May 2, 2019. . . . If a sale occurs, speculation has Jared Jacobson as being involved. His family is the Jacobson in the Jacobson & Greiner Group of Companies — he is the president and CEO — that has been a part of Brandon for more than 60 years. . . .

Meanwhile, there doesn’t seem to be any news on the sale of the Portland Winterhawks, despite Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, having said in June that he hoped to have the situation resolved within weeks.

Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune reported that Robison said: “We’re hopeful that we will be in a position later this month and into July to select a candidate to become the new owner of the Portland Winterhawks. It’s important to have that resolved as quickly as possible. Our target is to have that resolved by sometime in July.”

Bill Gallacher, who had owned the Winterhawks, had used the franchise as part of the collateral for a $20-million loan. When he forfeited on that, the Winterhawks ended up in receivership.


The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League hopes to open its 2020-21 season on Nov. 13, a move from its original projection of Oct. 2. It also kijhlhas lost three teams, with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, 100 Mile House Wranglers and Spokane Braves all opting to sit out the season for pandemic-related reasons. . . . That leaves the league with 17 teams, each of whom will play 30 games in the regular season that is to begin without fans in the buildings. A schedule is to be released on Sept. 25. . . . The league’s news release is right here.

Interestingly, each of the three teams that opted out did so for a different reason.

Spokane isn’t able to participate because the U.S.-Canada border is closed to non-essential travel and that situation isn’t likely to change for a while now.

The Wranglers opted out because, as Greg Aiken, the organization’s president, 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.” . . . Aiken also said that not having fans at games was a difference-maker, too. “We can’t survive on these few fans,” he said. “We rely on 500 fans coming per game.” . . . Aiken’s story is right here.

In Beaver Valley, the Nitehawks’ decision was made by 16 players who decided they weren’t going to play. . . . As Jamie Cominotto, the general manager, explained to Jim Bailey of the Trail Times: “Our players decided they were not going to play, and we don’t have time to replace 16 players.” Cominotto said he had a Zoom meeting with the players, “and we explained the league plan for play, as well as the costs for them to play. The team fees went up a little bit, and obviously we were unable to help with the billeting financially, because we just don’t have the money.” . . . Cominotto also told Bailey that “we don’t have the billet homes that we usually have.” That would seem to be a problem in more than one jurisdiction, at least judging by the number of teams on social media who are looking for billet homes. . . . Bailey’s story is right here.



COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Hockey Canada has cancelled three 2020 events — the National Women’s U-18 Championship that was to have been decided in Dawson Creek, B.C., Nov. 2-8; the Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup, in Bridgewater, N.S., Dec. 6-12; and the World Junior A Challenge, in Cornwall, Ont., Dec. 13-20. . . . Hockey Canada is hoping to be able to place those events in those same communities in 2021. . . .

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the NCAA will furlough about 60 staff members from its office in Indianapolis. They’ll be gone for between three and eight weeks starting later this month and running through January. . . . Senior management people have taken a 20 per cent cut in pay. . . .

The South African Ice Hockey Federation has pulled its U-20 men’s hockey team from the Division III championship that is scheduled to be played in Mexico City, Jan. 10-17. The tournament now will featured the host team and clubs from Bulgaria, Chinese Taipei, Israel and Turkey. . . .

Brandon’s three high school football teams won’t be playing this season, not even if the Winnipeg high school league is able to get off the ground. “We aren’t playing, plain and simple,” Neelin High head coach Rob Cullen told Thomas Friesen of the Brandon Sun. “We have already made our voice known that we will play in the spring as long as everything tapers down. I’m not going to put my athletes, my athletes’ families or anybody else at risk to play the sport of football at this time.”


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Jokerit, the Helsinki-based team that plays in the KHL, was to have opened the regular season against host Dinamo Minsk on Thursday. Minsk is in Belarus, the site of a great deal of political unrest of late. . . . Jokerit didn’t show up for its flight to Minsk, and the KHL later announced that the game had been forfeited to Dinamo Minsk. . . . According to newsnowfinland.fi, “Jokerit have faced growing pressure this week over their decision to travel to Belarus, amid an ongoing brutal crackdown against democracy protesters by regime forces. The club’s official supporters association Eteläpääty Ry says they’re very happy with the decision to cancel Thursday night’s game, after calling for a boycott of home matches if the fixture went ahead as planned.” . . . That story is right here. . . .

There are all kinds of political angles to this story. For starters, Jokerit has Russian owners with ties to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. . . . The hosting duties for the 2021 IIHF World championship are scheduled to be shared between Belarus and Latvia. However, Latvia has said it won’t take part if Belarus is involved. . . . In other words, this story is far from over.


Bacon


Two WHL players — F Connor McClennon of the Winnipeg Ice and F Ridly Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings — have signed one-year contracts with Karlskrona HK, which plays in Sweden’s HockeyEttan Södra. . . . Erik Belin, Karlskrona HK’s general manager, said in a news release that the club “gets this opportunity as we live in a troubled time and players are anxious to secure their situation for the coming season. In this category of players, this is the coolest news Karlskrona HK has ever launched! These players are here to deliver and keep their places in the national team and raise their positions before the draft.” . . . Greig had 26 goals and 34 assists in 56 games with Brandon last season. . . . McClennon put up 21 goals and 28 assists in 42 games with the Winnipeg Ice before suffering a shoulder injury. . . . Both are eligible for the NHL’s 2020 draft and are expected to be selected somewhere in the first two rounds. . . . The HockeyEttan Södra season opens on Oct. 3, with Karlskrona scheduled to play its first game on Oct. 4. . . . Both players are believed to have clauses in their contracts that would allow them to return to the WHL, which hopes to open its regular season on Dec. 4.


JUST NOTES: Tali Campbell has left the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers after one season as their general manager. He had been with the Clippers since Nov. 28, 2018 when he signed on as director of business operations. He took over as GM on Dec. 18, 2019. . . . The junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League now is aiming to open its regular season on Sept. 21 or Sept. 28. This comes after it earlier had said it have four potential openings dates — Sept. 7 for a 48-game season, Oct. 12 (40), Nov. 16 (40) or Dec. 14 (32).


Hope: It’s been a wonderful run . . . Does Prince George Rec League need help from feds? . . . New commish for PJHL

It sounds like Cam Hope doesn’t know why he was fired on Wednesday as the president and general manager of the WHL’s Victoria Royals, and he’s taking the high road. . . . Interestingly, Hope ran the Royals’ bantam draft on April 22, then had the rug yanked out VictoriaRoyalsfrom under him just one week later. . . . Hope had joined the Royals in 2012 after spending seven seasons with the NHL’s New York Rangers, the first three as vice-president of hockey operations and the last four as assistant GM. . . . He was the Royals’ GM for three seasons, then president and GM for five. . . . The Royals made the playoffs in each of his eight seasons, but never got out of the second round. . . . “We’re in a results oriented business,” Hope told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist,“and (results) are a matter of perspective. If you don’t win a championship, (well) you serve at the pleasure of ownership. I thought we had three good chances — in 2016, in 2018 and, as crazy as it sounds, this year with a team that was poised, and it’s disappointing not to get that chance. Often in sports, it’s in the hands of the gods.” . . . Graham Lee, the franchise’s owner, was quoted in the news release announcing Hope’s dismissal, but that’s been it. . . . Hope added: “It’s been eight terrific years in the best job in junior hockey. It’s extremely hard to create a sustainable business in this league. But I’ve enjoyed every day of it and it’s been a wonderful run.” . . . With Hope pulling the strings, the Royals had a 316-205-52 regular-season record. Good luck to the Royals in finding someone who can match that. . . . Dheensaw’s complete story is right here.


The 2020 IIHF World Men’s Hockey Championship had been scheduled for Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland, from May 8-24. Of course, it was postponed. There had been talk of Switzerland playing host in 2021, but that has been ruled out and it will remain in Belarus and Latvia. . . . The Swiss federation was interested in 2021, but changed its mind, citing financial risks and — get this! — the risk of the coronavirus still being a factor a year from now. . . .

The Hungarian government has banned all large gatherings through Aug. 15, so the F1 Hungarian Grand Prix will be run without fans in attendance if it is held on Aug. 2. . . . F1 officials continue to work on their schedule, which has been riddled by cancellations and postponements. . . .

NASCAR says it is going to start its season on May 17 at Darlington, S.C., Raceway. The Coca-Cola 600 is set for Charlotte, N.C., Motor Speedway on May 24. . . . No fans allowed, though.


Waldo


The WHL made it to fark.com, which took note of the 2020 bantam draft with this: “The virus of Brayden has passed its peak. Minus, it has mutated into variations of Hayden, Aiden, Kaden, Jayden, Grayden and (deep breath) Teydon.”


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”


If baseball’s 10-team Expedition League does get its season started, the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks, who call Brandon home, will be playing out of a city in North Dakota. . . . Brian Pallister, Manitoba’s premier, had said on Wednesday that there won’t be live sporting events with fans in attendance in the province until at least September. That combined with the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel meant the Whiskey Jacks wouldn’t be able to play in Brandon. So they will set up shop in a North Dakota community yet to be named. . . . The league’s Opening Day had been set for May 26, but that has been postponed, although a new date hasn’t yet been announced. . . . The league, a summer circuit for college players, also has teams in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. . . . Thomas Friesen of the Brandon Sun has more right here.


With a number of sporting leagues — CFL, CPL, CEBL, BCHL, KIJHL — apparently asking the feds for some financial help, Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat in Prince George and myprincegeorgenow.com wonders: “Is it time for the Prince George Rec Hockey League to ask the government for a handout?” . . . Yes, I think he was joking. But, hey, in these bizarre times you just never know.


In his weekly Hart Attack column, which is right here, Hartley Miller asked a few timely questions:

“What are the contingency plans for junior hockey leagues like the WHL and BCHL should physical distancing measures still be in place for the fall (which is highly likely) and even into the new year? It seems obvious that these leagues are not financially viable without fans, and many of them, in the stands.

“What will be the protocol when sports do return and a competing athlete tests positive for COVID-19? Does everything get shutdown again or do we just shrug our shoulders and just keep playing?”


Hands


Trevor Alto is the junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League’s new commissioner. Alto, 41, takes over from Ray Stonehouse, who had been in charge since 2016. Stonehouse, 76, will remain as a senior advisor through 2021-22. . . . Alto was the BCHL’s executive director under then-commissioner John Grisdale from 2012-19.

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Bayne Koen is the new head coach of the junior B Richmond Sockeyes of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. He is a veteran junior coach on the Lower Mainland of B.C., and, in fact, has won four championships, most recently in 2018-19 in his fourth and final season with the North Van Wolf Pack. He also has been a PJHL head coach with the Port Coquitlam Buckeroos and Port Moody Black Panthers. Last season, he was the director of player development with the White Rock Whalers and also coached a bantam prep team at the Delta Hockey Academy. . . . With the Sockeyes, he takes over from Brett Reusch, who left the club on April 9, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.


Embalm