U Sports, conferences deal with unknown by cancelling events, sports . . . Chiefs sign familiar faces

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Dorothy and I were joined by a special guest, our granddaughter Kara, for a walk on Sunday.

That’s it for the Kidney Walk for another year. The 2020 version was of a virtual variety and it was held on Sunday.

Thanks to all of you who joined Dorothy’s team by supporting her with a donation. At this point, she has raised $3,080.

This was her seventh year of taking part in the Kidney Walk, and people like you have donated $19,686 through her to the BC/Yukon branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

The money raised goes to help people dealing with kidney disease handle the financial costs that come with the fight.

Again, thank you so much for putting so many smiles on Dorothy’s face. Hopefully, we’ll see you in 2021.

In the meantime, please stay safe.


As expected, U Sports and three of its conferences — Canada West, Atlantic University Sport and Ontario University Athletics — cancelled almost all Canadian university athletic activity until at least January.

It is expected that Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec will follow suit.

U Sports, the governing body of university sport in Canada, cancelled national Usportschampionships in men’s and women’s cross-country, women’s rugby, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s field hockey. It also cancelled the Mitchell and Uteck Bowls and the Vanier Cup, the semifinals and championship game for men’s football that has been decided every year since 1965.

It then remained for the conferences to deal with sports at their level, including regular-season play and playoffs. Canada West, along with the Atlantic and Ontario conferences, announced that they are shutting down most sporting activity until at least January.

Canada West will decide on its fall sports of cross-country, golf and swimming by July 15.

Men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s CWbasketball are done until at least January.

Canada West has said that it will decide by Oct. 8 on whether basketball, hockey and volleyball will start up in January. Also to be decided by Oct. 8 is whether men’s and women’s wrestling, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s curling, and women’s rugby 7s will begin in January.

“While cancellation isn’t the outcome anyone associated with university sport wanted, I’m confident in the fact that this difficult decision is in the best interests of our student-athletes,” U of Victoria athletic director Clint Hamilton, who is Canada West’s president, said in a news release. “Health and safety is at the forefront of everything we do and simply put there was no way to adequately ensure the safety of everyone involved in university sport during competition this fall.”

Canada West’s 17 member schools voted unanimously on this strategy on Friday. The U Sports, Atlantic and Ontario conference’s decisions were made by their boards of directors.

Canada West had struck a COVID-19 Task Force to steer it through these pandemic-riddled times. That task force recommended the cancellation of competition through year’s end. That recommendation preceded the unanimous vote.

“The Task Force undertook significant discussion and research to inform our recommendations with public health considerations, specifically minimizing risk for both individual participants and the general public, at the core of our work,” said Dr. Steve Martin, who is UVic’s varsity sports medicine physician and Canada West’s rep on the U Sports medical committee. “By and large, sport competition provides a high-risk environment for the transmission of COVID-19. While other areas of society continue to mitigate risk through new guidelines, sport provides a challenge in this regard as any risk mitigation would render many sports unrecognizable.”

The Canada West news release also pointed out that “while professional sports leagues continue to explore options for a return to competition, the resources they will have at their disposal to minimize the risk of infection will not be the reality for Canada West members when the transition from training to competition eventually occurs.”

Also from Canada West’s news release: “Student-athletes in sports without U Sports national championships this season will not be charged eligibility and will remain eligible for athletic financial aid (scholarships).”

Meanwhile, the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association has shut down its intercollegiate sports schedule for the fall semester, a move that involves cross-country, golf, rugby, rugby sevens, baseball, soccer and softball. It has 27 member schools.


During a daily briefing on Monday, Adrian Dix, B.C.’s health minister, noted that while things appear headed in the right direction here, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has been increasing in the American states of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada, something he finds concerning.

“I don’t see that as practical,” he said of opening the U.S. border to non-essential travel. “I don’t see as practical either to have Canadians either visiting and then coming back.

“I don’t see it as practical for people visiting from the United States.”

These statements have to be disconcerting to say the least to junior hockey leagues with any cross-border connections.

The WHL, of course, has five teams in the U.S. — four in Washington and one in Oregon — and has a number of American players on team rosters. The BCHL has one U.S. franchise, the Wenatchee Wild, and its rosters are populated with American players.

On Monday, Canada’s federal government announced a loosening on border travelling that will allow families who have been separated to re-unite, with anyone entering Canada having to self-isolate for 14 days.

The most-recent ban on non-essential travel across the border is to reviewed before June 21.


Editor


During the last week of May, The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists “when they expect to resume 20 activities of daily life, assuming that the pandemic and the public health response to if unfold as they expect.”

Respondents took into consideration their own situation, such as where they live and what the coronavirus impact is in their area.

When asked when they might “see a doctor for non-urgent appointment,” 60 percent said this summer, with 29 percent option for three to 12 months, and 11 percent saying a year or more.

Asked about getting a haircut at a salon or barbershop, 41 percent said this summer, 39 per cent said three to 12 months, and 19 percent said a year or more.

The question about eating at a dine-in restaurant resulted in 16 percent saying this summer, 56 percent saying three to 12 months, and 28 percent saying a year or more.

The biggest number in the survey showed up when they were asked when they might “attend a sporting event, concert or play.” A full 64 percent said it would be one year or more, with three percent saying this summer, and 32 percent saying three to 12 months.

“They mostly agreed that outdoor activities and small groups were safer than being indoors or in a crowd,” the story reads, “and that masks would be necessary for a long time.”

Steve Mooney of the U of Washington told The Times: “This is as much about feelings of social responsibility as about personal infection risk. Large-scale gatherings are a contact tracing nightmare and seem like they should be shut down until we have a really good sense of what’s safe/how to screen people.”

Tammie Nelson of the Marion County Public Health Department said she would considering attending events in the fall. “I would do this IF social distancing was enforced and everyone attending was required to wear a mask,” she said.

The story, with graphics, is right here.


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, returned to the world of the Internet on Monday after a few days of battling modem-related issues.

He came back with an update on a defamation lawsuit that had been filed by former big leaguer Lenny Dykstra against one-time teammate Ron Darling over something the latter had written in a book.

The case was heard in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in New York County, the Hon. Robert D. Kalish presiding.

The curmudgeonly one reports that this was part of the judge’s ruling:

“Based on the papers submitted on this motion, prior to the publication of the book, Dykstra was infamous for being, among other things, racist, misogynist, and anti-gay, as well as a sexual predator, a drug-abuser, a thief, and an embezzler. Further, Dykstra had a reputation — largely due to his autobiography — of being willing to do anything to benefit himself and his team, including using steroids and blackmailing umpires . . . Considering this information, which was presumably known to the average reader of the book, this Court finds that, as a matter of law, the reference in the book has not exposed Dykstra to any further ‘public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace,’ or ‘evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking persons,’ or ‘deprivation of friendly intercourse in society.’ ”

For more on this and some good stuff on happenings involving Drew Brees, click right here.

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And here is the curmudgeonly one with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “A Puritan is someone who is desperately afraid that, somewhere, someone might be having a good time.”


Grammarman


With no active COVID-19 infections remaining in the country, New Zealand Rugby has given the all-clear for fans to return to its rugby stadiums. Matches are to resume this weekend and there won’t be any size restrictions placed on crowds for games in Dunedin on Saturday and Auckland on Sunday.



The Spokane Chiefs have signed five members of their front office to contract extensions, SpokaneChiefsthe length of which weren’t revealed. . . . Jim Hammett, the assistant general manager, and goaltending consultants Lucas Gore and Jesse Plewis were re-signed, as were equipment manager Tim Lindblade and education advisor Joe Everson. . . . Hammett, who runs the club’s scouting department, is entering his second year with the Chiefs, as are Gore and Plewis. . . . Lindblade is preparing for his eighth season in Spokane, while Everson has been with the Chiefs, in one capacity or another, for 30 years. He has been the education advisor for the past 12 seasons.


Flowers

Scattershooting: Blades’ voice has idea to honour Tyler Bieber . . . Guy Charron? Call him commissioner . . . Virden up 2-0 in MJHL final

Scattershooting

Les Lazaruk, the veteran radio voice of the Saskatoon Blades, caught a ride with Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele on Thursday morning and the two headed for Humboldt.

They went to the Elgar Petersen Arena for the funeral of Broncos’ radio voice Tyler Bieber, who was killed in Friday’s bus crash.

While in the seats, just prior to the service starting, Lazaruk had an idea.

“One other thing I feel as I sit and look at Tyler Bieber’s spot in the 107.5 Bolt FM broadcast booth,” he tweeted, “. . . I want to honour Tyler’s memory by calling Humboldt Broncos game on Bolt-FM. For free! No talent fee! No gas money! No meal money! I don’t care where the game is.

“There are 58 regular-season games in 2018-19 and I hope 57 other broadcasters step up and do the same in Tyler’s memory.”

If there is a way to make this work, you can bet on it happening.

Chris Cuthbert, Gord Miller, Peter Loubardias, Phil Andrews, Kelly Moore, Shawn Mullin, Ryan Switzer, James Gallo, Troy Gillard, Dave Randorf, John Fraser, Ben Holden, Joey Kenward, Tim Edmonds, Jason Gregor, Lee Jones, Tony Brar, Rob Mahon, Nick Gismondi, Brendan Parker, Peter Mills, Pete Krupsky and Cameron Birnie were among those to respond in a resoundingly positive fashion.


Tyler Bieber was a huge fan of the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Upon hearing that, Robert Kraft, the Patriots’ owner, called Bieber’s family — he ended up leaving a voicemail expressing condolences, according to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan — and also made sure that flowers were sent.



Bob Wilkie was a defenceman with the 1986-87 Swift Current Broncos. He survived the Broncos’ bus crash on Dec. 30, 1986, and went on to win the 1989 Memorial Cup with SCBroncosthem.

Wilkie later co-authored a book about the Broncos and that accident — Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos.

On Sunday, he was in Saskatoon and Humboldt as he, Sheldon Kennedy, Peter Soberlak and Darren Kruger worked to spread hope among those impacted by the Humboldt bus crash.

This week, Wilkie dug up a souvenir of that 1989 Memorial Cup championship.



Elsewhere . . .

The Spokane Chiefs have signed three members of their organization to contract extensions, the lengths of which weren’t released. Assistant coach Scott Burt, equipment manager Tim Lindblade and Chris Baird, the assistant director of hockey operations, all have new deals. . . . Burt is preparing for his sixth season with the Chiefs. . . . Lindblade joined the Chiefs for the 2013-14 season. . . . Baird just completed his first season as equipment manager after 10 seasons as the Chiefs’ video co-ordinator.


Jeff Wagner is the new general manager and head coach of the junior B Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He had been assistant GM/associate coach with the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thunder Cats. . . . Wagner replaces Craig Mohr, whose contract wasn’t renewed after the Ghostriders were first-round playoff casualties. This was his fourth season as the club’s GM/head coach.


Guy Charron, a former NHLer who did a couple of turns as the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, is the new commissioner of the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League. . . . You can bet that Charron will be a busy man because, as Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week writes, “The league has never been short on fiery personalities and hot-button issues — and this year is no different.” . . . Hastings has more right here.


JUST NOTES: If you’re following the WHL playoffs, you will be aware that the Tri-City Americans completed a four-game sweep of the Victoria Royals on Wednesday night. The Americans play in the U.S. Division and were a wild-card entry into the playoffs. They have swept the B.C. Division’s top two teams — the Kelowna Rockets, who finished atop the division, and the Royals, who were second. Does this mean the Americans get to hoist a B.C. Division championship pennant prior to next season? . . . In the MJHL, Rylee Zimmer had a goal and two assists to help the host Virden Oil Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the Steinbach Pistons. Zimmer tied the game at 14:07 of the third period and drew an assist on Landyn Cochrane’s winner at 15:48. . . . Virden won the opener, 2-1, in Steinbach on April 6. Game 2 had been scheduled for Sunday, but was postponed out of respect for the Humboldt Broncos. Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday in Steinbach. . . . The winner of the MJHL championship will meet the SJHL champ, either the Estevan Bruins or Nipawin Hawks, in the ANAVET Cup series. The SJHL final opens Saturday in Nipawin. . . .


A really interesting hockey book was published a year ago, but somehow I missed it. That book is Father Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey. I came upon it last month, and simply devoured it. Written by Greg Oliver, it details all that went on as Canadian hockey moved into the national team era and beyond. When I was growing up in northern Manitoba, among my hockey heroes were the likes of Roger Bourbonnais, Terry O’Malley, Barry MacKenzie, Fran Huck, Seth Martin, Ken Broderick, Jean Cusson et al. These were the Canadian players who would venture to Europe and get in the face of the great Soviet machine. The stories of all that went into getting the national program off the ground — no, Clarence Campbell’s NHL didn’t like it at all — all are right here. Great stuff!