There doesn’t appear to be anything new — at least, nothing for public consumption — in the situation involving the four players off the Moose Jaw Warriors’ roster who have been suspended indefinitely by the WHL.
The four players — D Marek Howell, 16; F Lynden Lakovic, who turned 16 on Dec. 12; D Maximus Wanner, 19; and G Connor Ungar, 21 — are shown on the WHL’s discipline page as having been suspended “tbd for standard of conduct violation.”
When the WHL announced the suspensions on Saturday, via a one-sentence news release. It stated that the players were suspended “pending an investigation into possible violations of team rules and the WHL Standard of Conduct policies.”
The WHL didn’t indicate who would be conducting such an investigation, whether an investigation is underway, or whether there was a time element involved.
Nor did the league indicate whether there is any police involvement.
Katie Strang of The Athletic reported on Monday that a Moose Jaw Police Service spokesperson confirmed they “have been made aware” of a situation involving players with the team but aren’t able to comment further at this time.
The four players all played in a 2-1 victory over the host Calgary Hitmen on Feb. 5, then were scratched on Wednesday as the Warriors beat the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings, 6-3. The night the suspensions were announced, the Warriors dropped an 8-4 decision to the Pats in Regina.
The Warriors next are scheduled to play on Friday against the visiting Winnipeg Ice.
Moose Jaw (33-17-3) is fourth in the Eastern Conference, five points behind the Saskatoon Blades and seven ahead of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Premier Francois Legault wants the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to provide a public explanation after disturbing revelations in a recent Ontario court decision of sexual assault and torture suffered by teenage players. https://t.co/UV6WtS6RYl
While enjoying their annual Super Bowl retreat in Las Vegas, the WHL’s board of governors honoured Kelly McCrimmon by presenting him with a Governors Award. From a news release: The award “is presented annually to an individual who, through their outstanding hockey and overall contributions to the game, has impacted on the growth and development of the WHL.” McCrimmon, now the general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, was a long-time owner, general manager and head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . The governors also took time out from their time at the slot machines to honour former Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz. Speltz was named as the recipient of last year’s Governors Award. However, scheduling issues due primarily to the pandemic prevented the award from being presented to Speltz prior to Monday. Speltz, the Chiefs’ GM for 26 seasons, now is the GM of the Henderson Silver Knights, the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate.
This day in Georgia hockey history, February 14, 1974: the St. Valentine's Day Massacre-IRS Agents seize the remaining assets of the Macon Whoopees, ending the team's season with eight games remaining. pic.twitter.com/kEbbtMTx5A
The Swift Current struck four times in the third period en route to posting a 7-5 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . The Wheat Kings took a 4-3 lead into the third period, but the Broncos took a 5-4 lead on two goals from F Brad Birnie (14), at 0:32 and 3:47. . . . F Connor Hvidston (14), who also had two assists, and F Josh Filmon (33) stretched the lead at 8:33 and 12:34. . . . Swift Current was 2-for-2 on the PP and had a shorthanded goal. . . . Brandon was 3-for-6 on the PP. . . . Brandon got two goals from F Brett Hyland (26) and a goal (25) and two assists from F Nate Danielson. . . . Swift Current (25-22-3) is tied with the Regina Pats (25-22-3) and Calgary Hitmen (23-22-7) for sixth in the Eastern Conference. . . . Brandon (21-23-7) is 10th, four points from a playoff spot. . . .
The Saskatoon Blades snapped a 1-1 tie with three goals early in the third period as they skated to a ?? victory over the Cougars in Prince George. . . . F Jordan Keller pulled the Blades into a 1-1 tie with a PP goal at 17:23 of the second period, then snapped the tie with his 13th goal at 2:26 of the third period. . . . D Spencer Shugrue’s first goal of the season and third in 140 games increased the lead at 2:51, and D Charlie Wright (5) added another at 4:35. . . . Keller also had an assist for the first three-point game of his freshman season. He has three two-goal games in his last five outings. . . . F Egor Sidorov scored his 31st goal — giving the Blades four goals in 5:46 — and also had two assists. . . . F Chase Wheatcroft of the Cougars drew one assist to run his point streak to 14 games. . . . The Blades are 2-1-0 in a B.C. Division tour that continues Friday night in Victoria. Interestingly, Saskatoon is the only East Division team that made its Prince George visit in the middle of the road trip; the others either began or ended their trip against the Cougars. . . . Saskatoon (35-13-4) is third in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Prince George (24-23-4) is sixth in the Western Conference, four points behind the Tri-City Americans. . . . BTW, McBride has a population of about 600 people, so that’s an awfully good showing in support of Blades D Tanner Molendyk. . . .
F Brad Lambert had a goal and two assists as the Seattle Thunderbirds dumped the Tri-City Americans, 4-2, in Kent, Wash. . . . In nine games since joining the Thunderbirds from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, Lambert has seven goals and seven assists. He has a goal in each of his last four games. . . . F Lucas Ciona (23) scored Seattle’s last two goals, proving a 3-0 lead at 14:18 of the second period and making it 4-2 with an empty-netter at 19:44 of the third. . . . F Ethan Ernst (30) and F Adam Mechura (18) got the Americans to within a goal by scoring at 16:30 and 18:51 of the third. . . . Seattle (39-9-2) has won four in a row. It now leads the Western Conference by four points over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Tri-City (25-20-6) has lost five straight (0-4-1). It is tied with the Everett Silvertips (27-22-2) for fourth in the conference.
From the Ghostrider News blog that follows the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League:
“With an amusing 1,350 penalty minutes the Kelowna Chiefs won the coveted KIJHL colouring books; they also finished dead last with 16 points. Clearly in a large city where there are almost as many players as protesters recruiting should be easy; there might even be a ‘convoy’ of players to choose from . . . but the owner, Jason Tansem, made himself the GM . . . What does that tell you?
“Tansem joins a long list of owners who have dabbled in the occult or whatever it is coaches do. Friend of the blog Lee Stone, who coached the Campbell River Storm to Cyclone Taylor and Keystone Cups along with three VIJHL championships, lost his coaching job recently when a new owner came in and meddled as GM.”
The junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League announced Monday that it has “parted ways” with Lee Stone, its general manager and head coach. . . . “He has been an integral part of every success this team has experienced from 2013-23,” the team said in a social media post. According to the team, Stone had a 373-113-32 record over nine seasons. . . . This season, the Storm is 31-11-2, good for second place in the six-team North Division. . . . On Tuesday, Stone posted on social media that “the timing of this decision by a new ownership interest was unfortunate and reflects ongoing changes to the club’s direction that I could no longer support.”
And then there were seven. . . . Yes, what once was a field of 16 WHL playoff teams is down to seven following the departure of the Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday night. The Edmonton Oil Kings now are 8-0 in these playoffs after completing a sweep of the Rebels with a 4-2 victory in Red Deer last night. . . . The Oil Kings await the winner of the other Eastern Conference semifinal in which the Winnipeg Ice holds a 3-1 lead over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . .
In the Western Conference, the No. 4 Seattle Thunderbirds scored a 5-0 victory over the No. 3 Winterhawks in Portland. The Winterhawks hold a 2-1 lead in the semifinal with the next game in Kent, Wash., on Friday. . . .
There is one game scheduled for tonight and it features the other Western Conference semifinal with the No. 2 Kamloops Blazers, holding a 2-1 edge, facing the No. 8 Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. The host Giants won, 3-2, on Tuesday night.
WEDNESDAY IN THE WHL:
#WHLPlayoffs#WPGvsMJ: Four @WHLWpgICE members turn in a goal and assist as they reach the doorstep of the Conference Final. Matthew Savoie is one as he strikes half a minute after Moose Jaw cuts a 3-1 lead to 3-2. 3rd multipoint game of playoffs, 2 more from hitting 100 total
In Moose Jaw, the No. 1 Winnipeg Ice rode three second-period goals to a 5-3 victory over the No. 4 Warriors. . . . The Ice holds a 3-1 edge in the conference semifinal. They’ll play Game 5 in Winnipeg on Friday night. . . . F Mikey Milne (8) got Winnipeg started at 16:28 of the first period, only to have F Jagger Firkus (5) tie it at 18:57. . . . The Ice took a 3-1 lead on two quick goals early in the second period, as F Jack Finley (6), at 6:45, and F Owen Pederson (5), on a PP, at 7:20, found the range. . . .Firkus (6), who also had an assist, cut into that lead, on a PP, at 13:09, but F Matt Savoie (4) got that one back just 29 seconds later. . . . F Cole Muir (1) stretched Winnipeg’s lead to 5-2 at 3:55 of the third period. . . . Moose Jaw D Majid Kaddoura (2) rounded out the scoring at 11:22. . . . Finley has goals in five straight games during which time he has totalled six goals and four assists. . . . F Ryder Korczak had three assists for Moose Jaw. . . . G Daniel Hauser stopped 30 shots for the Ice, four more than Moose Jaw’s Jackson Unger. . . . The Warriors were without F Robert Baco, who was hit with a TBD suspension after taking a charging major and game misconduct in Game 3. . . .
#WHLPlayoffs#EDMvsRD: Goals 31 seconds apart in the first minute of 2nd is the difference as @EdmOilKings are League's first team to eight wins. Dylan Guenther has a point on each of last 3, including a tally 8 seconds into the middle stanza. 5 goals in series (RD had 6).
In Red Deer, the No. 2 Edmonton Oil Kings unleashed a 51-shot attack as they beat the No. 3 Rebels to complete a sweep of their conference semifinal. . . . The Oil Kings, who led 1-0 after the first period, took control with two goals 31 seconds apart in the first minute of the second. . . . F Jalen Luypen (3) had scored at 15:51 of the first period. Then F Dylan Guenther (8), scored eight seconds into the second and F Carter Souch (5) made it 3-0 at 0:39. . . . F Jhett Larson (3) pulled the Rebels to within two at 8:20, but Guenther (9) stretched the lead to three at 18:34. . . . D Blake Gustafson (2) got a shorthanded score for the Rebels at 13:47 of the third period. . . . Guenther also had an assist for a three-point outing. He’s got 12 points in eight playoff games. . . . The Oil Kings held a 42-10 edge in shots through two periods. . . . G Sebastian Cossa turned aside 14 shots for Edmonton. In these playoffs, he is 8-0, 1.48, .932. . . . The Rebels got 47 stops from G Connor Ungar.
That'll do it, Seattle wins 5-0. Thomas Milic the 2nd visiting goalie to ever post a playoff shutout in Portland, joining Nick Pannoni on 3/29/02. https://t.co/V656wHPHNq
In Portland, F Lukas Svejkovsky scored once and added three assists, and G Thomas Milic turned aside 28 shots, leading the No. 4 Seattle Thunderbirds to a 5-0 victory over the Winterhawks. . . . This was the Winterhawks’ first loss in seven playoff games this spring. . . . Portland holds a 2-1 lead in the conference semifinal. This series is following a 1-2-1-1-1-1 format. They return to Kent, Wash., for Game 4 on Friday. . . . F Jared Davidson (5) gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 6:14 of the first period, the third time in three games that the Thunderbirds opened the scoring. . . . Svejkovsky (5) scored at 5:29 of the second period, and F Conner Roulette (1), on a PP, made it 3-0 at 7:29 of the third. . . . Seattle added two empty-netters, from Davidson (6), who also had an assist, and F Lucas Ciona (5). . . . Milic, who had three shutouts in the regular-season, posted his second of these playoffs. He is 5-3, 1.82, .929. . . . Seattle was 1-for-4 on the PP; Portland was 0-for-3. . . .
As an interesting aside to this series, it seems that Dan Leckelt, one of the Thunderbirds’ owners, wasn’t enthralled with the officiating in Game 1, a 4-2 victory by visiting Portland, on Friday night.
He retweeted a tweet by a fan that read: “The reffing in this game has been disgusting. Our boys have been absolutely molested with no calls, yet they (bleeping) call a soft penalty on us in a tied game with 4 (bleeping) minutes left. #whlrefssuck”
Portland D Clay Hanus broke a 2-2 tie on a PP at 16:21 of the third period.
Leckelt later tweeted: “Development leagues need to develop more than players.” He may or may not have been referring to the WHL. What do you think?
Jared Davidson starts the scoring again in a shutout, doing so on team's earlier shutout in Game 1 against Kelowna (a game in which he turned in 2 goals, 1 assist like here). Lukas Svejkovsky falls one short of season high in points with 4 but earns 3 assists for 6th time. https://t.co/WkzFBf9jmL
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: F Riley Kidney scored at 16:14 of the third OT period to give the Acadie-Bathurst Titan a 4-3 victory over the host Halifax Mooseheads on Wednesday night. It was the third-longest game in QMJHL history. . . . The Titan held a 72-46 edge in shots. . . . Halifax won the first two games of the best-of-five series on the road, but now has lost twice at home. The deciding game is scheduled for tonight in Bathurst, N.B. . . .
Tim Speltz, the former long-time general manager and governor of the Spokane Chiefs, is the latest recipient of the WHL’s Governors Award. According to the WHL, this is the “highest honour” that it “bestows on an individual who has been associated with the league.” . . . Speltz was the Chiefs’ GM for 26 years before leaving the join the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs as director of western area scouting in 2016. He was promoted to head of amateur scouting in 2018 and filled the role for three years. He now is the general manager of the Henderson Silver Knights, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. . . .
Brett Smith announced via Twitter on Wednesday that he has left the Prince Albert Raiders. The team’s manager of communications and community relations, Smith had been with the Raiders for six years. . . .
The Dauphin Kings won the Turnbull Cup as champions of the MJHL on Wednesday night, scoring a 2-1 victory over the host Steinbach Pistons in Game 7 of the final series. F Brayden Dube broke a 1-1 tie at 11:33 of the third period. . . . Dube, 16, is from Roblin, Man. He was a second-round selection by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL’s 2020 draft and has signed with them. . . . The Kings, who last won the MJHL title in 2010, will represent the league at the Centennial Cup tournament that opens next week in Estevan, Sask. . . .
Rylan Ferster is the new general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies. The team announced on Twitter earlier this week that Craig Didmon wouldn’t be back after 12 years with the organization. His contract expired and wasn’t renewed. . . . Ferster, who has spent the past two seasons working with the Philadelphia Hockey Club, previously has coached in Victoria. He spent two seasons (2004-06) as head coach of the BCHL’s Salsa and, after a regime change, spent 2006-07 as the Grizzlies’ head coach.
From The New York Times: Bill Gates, who has donated millions to pandemic relief efforts, tested positive for the coronavirus, he said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in the world of MLB, the Cleveland Guardians were to have played against the host Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. But the virus had other ideas. From MLB: “Following multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the Guardians organization, their game vs. the White Sox has been postponed to allow for continued testing and contact tracing.”
The yet-to-be-named West Coast junior hockey league has officially added former USHL commissioner Tom Garrity and advertising heavyweight John King to founding partner Ben Robert's leadership group. League shooting for a 2023-24 start in the U.S. with six to 12 franchises
My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Dan Courneyea, our man at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, is there to work as an off-ice official at the hockey venues. But he took time to attend the Opening Ceremony on Friday, writing that “all I can say is WOW! It was AWESOME!” . . . Courneyea, who heads up the Kamloops Blazers’ crew of off-ice officials, is part of the Olympic hockey crew for the third time, having also been at Vancouver in 2010 and PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018. . . . He got his Beijing Games started by working Canada’s 11-1 victory over Switzerland on Thursday, and was back at the NIS today as Canada skated past Finland, 11-1. . . . Before going to the hockey game, Dan sent along some photos from the Opening Ceremony. I am partial to the third one, which provides a proud moment for Canadians. . . . Enjoy!
Despite not playing any home games in what would have been the 2020-21 WHL season, the community-owned Prince Albert Raiders announced a profit of $25,891 during their annual general meeting on Thursday night.
The pandemic resulted in the WHL’s Manitoba- and Saskatchewan-based teams playing a 24-game schedule a bubble in Regina in the spring of 2021.
At their previous AGM, the Raiders announced a loss of $331,895 for the 2019-20 season. That was when they had $1,074,857 in ticket sales. In 2020-21, the Raiders didn’t have any ticket sales, but did receive a $600,000 grant from the provincial government, as did each of the other four Saskatchewan-based WHL teams.
“That lost revenue was made up for by generosity,” reported Jeff D’Andrea of paNOW. “The Raiders received $1,081,179 in grants, including the $600,000 WHL Support Grant from the Government of Saskatchewan, and $416,111 from the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) along with others.”
Kyle Kosowan of the Prince Albert Daily Herald reported that the Raiders’ revenue for 2020-21 totalled $515,917, down $1,776,412 from 2019-20.
“The expense total,” Kosowan wrote, ”was nearly $1 million less in 2020-21. Advertising was the largest factor of expenses. Spending just $39,690, that’s a difference of $204,770 from 2019-20. The difference in expenses was $917,347. While revenue generated wasn’t nearly as high, being able to cut down on expenses was a huge game-changer.”
The WHL has four community-owned teams; all four now have held their AGMs.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes, who received $668,000 in government funding, showed a profit of $72,250.
The Swift Current Broncos declared a loss of $129,968 after factoring in the $600,000 in provincial government money.
The Moose Jaw Warriors didn’t post a news release on their website, but president Chad Taylor said at the time: “If it wasn’t for the provincial government our balance sheet . . . would look a lot different than it is today. We are still showing a loss. You can’t just recover . . . With no revenues it’s impossible to try and pull a profit out of an organization like this.”
The Warriors lost $391,299 for 2019-20, after losses of $165,145 for 2018-19 and $463,566 for 2016-17. In 2017-18, the Warriors declared a profit of $704,182.
These days, Rick Brodsky mostly hangs his hat in Kelowna, although in non-pandemic times he also spends time in Arizona. Of course, there are times, like now, when you might find him in northern Manitoba, helping nephews get heavy equipment over winter roads and into position to do a big-time construction job. . . . There was a time, though, when he was a prominent WHL owner, first with the Saskatoon Blades, and then the Victoria Cougars, a franchise he would move to Prince George. . . . Hartley Miller, the news supervisor and sports editor for VISTA Radio in Prince George, does a weekly podcast that most often is wrapped around the Cougars. On Thursday, he released Part 1 of a two-part interview with Brodsky, who also is a former chairman of the WHL’s board of governors. . . . It is right here.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The Spokane Chiefs retired No. 9 on Friday night in honour ofF Tyler Johnson, who put up 128 goals and 154 assists in 266 regular-season games over four seasons (2007-11). Johnson, who is from Spokane, helped the Chiefs win the 2008 Memorial Cup title. He is in his ninth NHL season, the first eight with the Tampa Bay Lightning and this one with the Chicago Blackhawks. However, injuries have limited him to eight games this season.. . . F Bear Hughes, who had been wearing No. 9, gave his sweater to Johnson and now wears No. 8. . . . Among those in attendance in Spokane was former Chiefs GM Tim Speltz and former head coach Bill Peters, whose final season there was 2007-08. . . . F Ray Whitney is the only other Spokane player to have had his number (14) retired. . . .
The AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder and Eric Thurston, the general manager and head coach, have agreed on a contract extension that runs through 2024-25. According to a news release, the contract makes “Eric one of the highest-paid coaches in the AJHL.” No figures were release. He has been with the Thunder since March 13, 2018.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Former NHL/WHL G Pete Peeters now lives in Sturgeon County, just north of Edmonton. So it was only fitting that Peeters was involved in the catching of a fish on the Fraser River that Patrick Johnston of Postmedia writes was “a sturgeon bigger than anything that’s been measured in modern history.” . . . Johnston writes: “The fish’s fork-length was a B.C. record: 352 cm (or 11 feet, six inches). Its girth was 141 cm (55 inches) and was estimated to weigh 890 pounds.” . . . Johnston’s story, along with a couple of photos, is right here.
The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights have hired former Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz as the general manager of their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Speltz, who is a long-time friend of Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon, has spent the past five seasons on the scouting staff of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the last three as their head amateur scout. He joined the Leafs after being the Chiefs’ general manager for 26 seasons (1990-2016). He also was the Medicine Hat Tigers’ GM for two seasons (1988-90). . . . Prior to signing Speltz, McCrimmon also was responsible for the Silver Knights, who are preparing for their second AHL season.
Ian Herbers, head coach of @GBHKY, says all his players, coaches, and staff members are fully vaccinated.
And wouldn’t you know it . . . I just pre-ordered another book, after discovering that Bearcat Murray: From Ol’ Potlicker to Calgary Flames Legend is scheduled to be released on Nov. 2. . . . You should know that this one is written by George Johnson, who once upon a time was part of the gang at the late, great Winnipeg Tribune. Say what you want about George, just don’t question his love for Ol’ Blue Eyes and classic movies, or his ability to write. He’s one of our best, so Bearcat’s story will be a winner. . . . And, yes, he did wind up plus-1 during an NHL game. You know that story will be included.
Finally . . . we have a cancellation that hasn’t anything to do with the pandemic. The Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds were to have played an exhibition game in Kennewick, Wash., on Sept. 19. However, the teams have decided to stroke that game off the schedule, apparently because of the number of players they expect to have in NHL camps at that time. . . . The game would have been part of the Tri-City Americans’ tournament.
The Blazers organization would like to pass on our sympathies to the family of Tom Wallace. The longtime season ticket holder (Back to ‘82 with the Jr. Oilers) passed away last week. Here’s a photo with his son Greg “Spike” Wallace with the 1994 Memorial Cup. Rest in Peace, Tom. pic.twitter.com/7DfcrKFkcb
ICYMI, the CFL’s Edmonton Elks released Canadian OL Jacob Ruby after he breached COVID-19 protocols. This had to have been serious because CFL teams value offensive linemen the way politicians love votes. Dave Naylor of TSN later reported that Ruby “did repeatedly misrepresent to (the) team (that) he was vaccinated.” . . . Ruby had been in the CFL since 2015 when he was with the Montreal Alouettes. . . . The Elks, of course, have had 13 players test positive over the last while, and that led to the postponement of a game in Toronto against the Argonauts that was to have been played on Aug. 26. . . . As of Tuesday, the Elks had gone five days without a positive test; they are expected to return to team activities today. . . .
Meanwhile, the NFL’s New England Patriots surprised the football world on Tuesday by releasing veteran QB Cam Newton, who had started all three of their exhibition games. We may never find out if his apparently being unvaccinated had anything to do with the move by head coach Bill Belichick, who will open the season with Alabama product Mac Jones, a rookie, as the starter. . . .
In Indianapolis, the Colts placed QB Carson Wentz, C Ryan Kelly, who is a Pro Bowler, and WR Zach Pascal on the COVID-19 list as close contacts of a staff member who tested positive. . . . If the three test negative and are asymptomatic they will be able to return in five days. . . . “The fact that the three players were placed on the list as close contacts is an indication they are not vaccinated for the coronavirus as, per NFL protocols, vaccinated players would only be placed on the list for a positive test result,” writes Mike Wells of ESPN. . . . The Colts now have had at least nine players on the COVID-19 list since training camp started. They also have had two coaches test positive, including head coach Frank Reich. . . .
And from the world of baseball and television . . . the New York Post reported Tuesday that former MLB pitchers Al Leiter and John Smoltz have refused to be vaccinated so “will no long appear in-studio for MLB Network.” . . . MLB has a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees and it goes into effect today (Wednesday). . . .
On Tuesday night, the Boston Red Sox took SS Xavier Bogaerts out of their game in the second inning after a positive test came back. The Red Sox lost the game, 8-5, to the host Tampa Bay Rays. . . . Boston has had six players test positive since Friday, the others being OF Kiké Hernández, INF Christian Arroyo, P Matt Barnes and P Martín Pérez. P Josh Taylor went on the list as a close contact.
Chapter 9,876 in the book How Did We Get Here From There — In chatting the other night with the husband and wife who own a couple of Dairy Queen franchises, I was told about a male and female who recently were refused service because she wasn’t wearing a mask. Yes, masks are mandatory indoors in B.C. . . . Anyway, the couple started beefing and the owners realized it was a waste of time and energy debating the issue so they walked away and the two disgruntled folks departed the premises. . . . That brings us to Port Alberni, B.C., where an idiot who was refused service because he wasn’t wearing a mask chose to leave the store, before returning to urinate on the counter. . . . Sheesh! What is happening to us? Just wear a mask. It’s not like you’re being asked to fight a grizzly bear with a plastic knife.
KING-TV in Seattle reports that if you’re planning on attending the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, you will have to wear a mask at all times — indoors or out — regardless of your vaccination status. . . . Why? Because Pierce County is experiencing unprecedented levels of COVID-19. . . . The State Fair runs from Sept. 3-26. . . . According to yaktrinew.com, “The masking requirement came one day after two hospital leaders said during a Washington State Hospital Association briefing that the Washington State Fair should be canceled due to the stress it would inevitably put on hospitals.”
JUST NOTES:Matt Calvert, who recently retired after an 11-year NHL career, has joined the Brandon Wheat Kings as their development coach. From a news release: “Along with assisting the coaching staff with day-to-day operations, Calvert will focus primarily on the career development of current players and prospects, emphasizing skill development, fitness, nutrition, mental health, and education.” Calvert, who is from Brandon, played three seasons (2007-10) with the Wheat Kings. . . . The ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones have promoted Jason Payne from assistant to head coach, replacing Matt Thomas, who now is with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Payne, who is from Toronto, is the lone Black head coach in pro hockey at the moment. ESPN’s Emily Kaplan has more on Payne right here. . . .
Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) reported Tuesday morning that former WHL F Yogi Svejkovsky is going to work with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks as a skills coach, who also will work with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks. He had been coaching at the Delta Hockey Academy. He spent 12 seasons (2006-18) as the Vancouver Giants’ skills coach. Svejkovsky, 44, had 101 points, including 58 goals, in his one WHL season (1995-96) with the Tri-City Americans. His son, Lukas, who turns 20 on Nov. 23, has split the past three seasons between the Giants and the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
F Jannik Hansen (Portland, 2005-06) signed a one-year contract with CSKA Moscow (Russia, KHL). Last season, he had two goals and 12 assists in 46 games with the San Jose Sharks (NHL).
I’ve not met anyone who fought longer and harder against one of the worst forms of cancer. And kept an amazingly positive outlook. A good friend, and a better role model. Proud to know you, Darryl. https://t.co/MrtPpqFjxn
Darryl Porter, who worked in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans, Chilliwack Bruins and Edmonton Oil Kings, died in Edmonton on July 25. He would have turned 57 on Aug. 12. . . . His death came after a long battle with cancer. . . . According to his obituary, a ‘Jeans and Jerseys’ celebration of life is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 13, 2 p.m., at Connelly-McKinley, 1011—114 St., in Edmonton. . . . That obituary is right here. . . . Porter spent 16 years with Molson Breweries before venturing into the WHL. He worked for three years as president of the Americans, and for five seasons was president and part-owner of the Bruins. The Oil Kings named him vice-president of family brands on May 31, 2011.
The IIHF has released the schedule for the 2019 World Junior Championship that is to be played in Victoria and Vancouver. . . . That schedule is right here, and it includes teams, venues and starting times. . . . The tournament opens on Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 5.
The Moose Jaw Warriors have signed F Eric Alarie, their first-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. Alarie was the final pick in that first round. His signing leaves just four of the 22 first-round selections unsigned (see list below). . . . Alarie, from Winnipeg, had 28 goals and 27 assists in 30 games with the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy bantam prep team. He added a goal and six assists in five playoff games.
The WHL teams that have signed 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:
1 Edmonton — F Dylan Guenther.
2. Kootenay — D Carson Lambos.
3. Prince Albert — D Nolan Allan.
4. Calgary — F Sean Tschigerl.
5. Kamloops — F Logan Stankoven.
6. Saskatoon — F Colton Dach.
7. Red Deer — F Jayden Grubbe.
8. Lethbridge — F Zack Stringer.
11. Medicine Hat — F Cole Sillinger.
12. Vancouver — F Zack Ostapchuk.
13. Victoria — D Nolan Bentham.
14. Tri-City — D Marc Lajoie.
15. Brandon — F Jake Chiasson.
16. Red Deer — D Kyle Masters.
17. Spokane — D Graham Sward.
19. Portland — F Gabe Klassen.
20. Edmonton — D Keegan Slaney.
22. Moose Jaw — F Eric Alarie.
The WHL teams that have yet to sign their 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:
9. Prince George — F Craig Armstrong.
10. Seattle — F Kai Uchacz.
18. Kelowna — F Trevor Wong (committed to U of Denver, 2021-22).
21. Prince George — G Tyler Brennan.
Sooo what nhl player is gonna do the right thing and buy this place so that junior hockey beauties of the future can sneak out past curfew after a double header fri/sat in K-town in get absolutely IN ONE! #sorrycoachpic.twitter.com/keGfiHEehW
The Everett Silvertips have signed Slovakian F Peter Melcher, 17, who was their lone selection in the CHL’s 2018 import draft. . . . Last season, he played with three teams, putting up 17 goals and 15 assists in 15 games with MHC Martin’s U-18 side; three goals and two assists in 12 games with MHC Martin’s U-20 team; and two goals and four assists in 21 games with the Iowa Wild’s U-16 club. He had one assist in four games with the Slovakian U-18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. . . . Melcher joins Slovakian F Martin Fasko-Rudas, who is preparing for his second season, as Everett’s import players.
Tim Speltz, the former general manager of the Spokane Chiefs, now is the head amateur scout with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Speltz left the Chiefs two years ago after having been with the organization since 1990. . . . He joined the Maple Leafs as director of western area scouting. . . . Speltz spent two seasons (1988-90) as GM of the Medicine Hat Tigers before joining the Chiefs.
Dorothy, my wife of 46 years, underwent a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013. She will celebrate the fifth anniversary on Sept. 23 by taking part in the Kamloops Kidney Walk. This will be the fifth time she has done the Kidney Walk; she has been the leading fund-raiser in Kamloops in each of the previous four years. . . . If you would like to support her this year, you are able to do so right here.
Like Bill Moores before him and those who followed, Rob Daum carried on the tradition of @GBHKY success in the house that Clare Drake built during his time here. Well deserved in every way. https://t.co/nFIqE7sGb0
Former WHL coach Rob Daum will be inducted into the U of Alberta’s Sports Wall of Fame on Sept. 23. Daum was the Golden Bears’ hockey coach from 1995-2005, taking the team to nine straight national championships and winning three of them. He was Canada West’s coach of the year on five occasions and won the national award twice. He went on to coach in the AHL and NHL, and has coached in Europe since 2011-12. . . . Daum, 60, was an assistant coach (1989-90) and head coach (1990-91) with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, then worked for two seasons (1991-93) as an assistant coach with the Swift Current Broncos. He was the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ head coach for two seasons (1993-95) before taking over as head coach of the Golden Bears. . . . He presently is the head coach of the Iserlohn Roosters of the German DEL.
An argument to be made that Rob Daum has been best Coach in U of A history!
Went 182-24-16 (.855) last 5 seasons with Golden Bears. Alberta was ranked #1 72 of 84 weeks during that stretch…and #2 the other 12 weeks.
Now that my move from BC to Edmonton is done, I’m extremely excited to officially be joining the scouting staff for the Swift Current Broncos. I want to thank @ISShockey and all the amazing mentors who helped me during my internship. Let’s go @SCBroncos !!
Judging by the above tweet, the Swift Current Broncos, who apparently lost all of their scouts following a regime change, have started filling the vacancies. . . . The Broncos, the reigning WHL champions, never did make an announcement regarding the departed scouts, nor have they added the names of any scouts to their website.
Katie Greenway has been named the head coach of the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s female prep team. Greenway, 26, was an assistant coach with the team last season. . . . In her playing days, she was a goaltender at UBC and Simon Fraser, and also played for the ZSC Lions in Zurich, Switzerland. . . . At OHA, she will be joined on the bench by former NHL defenceman Blake Wesley, 59, who has been on the OHA staff since 2004. Wesley played three WHL seasons (1976-80) with the Portland Winter Hawks. He also worked as an assistant coach with the Tri-City Americans (2001-02) and Portland (2002-04).
The MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders have hired Ryan Bettesworth as an assistant coach. He played two seasons (2005-07) with the Stampeders. . . . He has spent the past eight years in Thompson, Man., working with the Fire Emergency Services. . . . With the Stampeders, he will work with GM/head coach Taurean White.