CHL, teams settle minimum-wage lawsuit for $30 million . . . Next up: Concussion-related action . . . Gaglardi: It all comes down to testing

Six years later . . . if you were hoping for a clear-cut winner and loser, well, as Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is?”

The CHL and its leagues have agreed to pay $30 million to settle three class-action CHLminimum wage-related lawsuits that were filed six years ago.

The suits were filed by former players against the three major junior leagues — the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League — that operate under the CHL umbrella. They later were certified as class action.

“This settlement does not mean that we agree with the plaintiffs,” the CHL said in a statement. “It means that we wanted to end the lawsuits so we could continue to focus on being the best development league in hockey.” 

Ted Charney of Toronto-based Charney Lawyers PC, who was the lead for the plaintiffs, told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News: “This has been a very long, hard-fought battle, effectively gloves-off litigation for several years. We had to fight the (political) lobbying, which we lost miserably on, but we won in all the court rooms.”

The lawsuits were filed in 2014, with players claiming that the major junior teams are businesses and that players, as employees, should be eligible for minimum wages and overtime pay. The players also requested back pay.

While the lawsuits were before the court, the major junior leagues, which are of the belief that the players are student-athletes, lobbied various governments and were successful in gaining exemptions from minimum-wage laws.

As TSN’s Rick Westhead said in an on-air interview: “Over the last few years, the CHL has been very diligent about going to provinces and U.S. states where there are CHL teams and trying to successfully have minimum-wage laws amended so that players are exempt from minimum-wage legislation.”

In the west, governments in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Washington state all amended labour codes to provide exemptions. Oregon politicians chose not to provide an exemption.

According to the CHL and the plaintiffs, they agreed on a settlement in February with the help of a mediator.

“Earlier this year we met with the lawyers for the plaintiffs and agreed on a settlement that would see the end of the court case and an award of $30 million which will cover their lawyer’s fees, funder’s fees and other legal costs,” the CHL said in its statement. “The remainder will be distributed to players in the class. We did this because cases like these are very expensive and are a distraction to the league and as we had publicly disclosed, we had $30 million in insurance for these lawsuits.”

Lawyers are expected to get about $10 million off the top, with the remainder to be split among players. There are believed to be about 4,000 players who played from 2010-19 eligible to share in the money — players who have signed NHL contracts aren’t eligible — but it’s unlikely that all will apply.

It is believed that the CHL and its teams will pay half of the agreed-upon sum, with the CHL’s insurance paying the other half. Interestingly, the CHL purchases its insurance through Hockey Canada, which means that insurance premiums for the governing body of minor hockey in Canada are likely to rise. Those costs could be passed on to minor hockey players throughout the country.

If all 60 CHL teams are on the hook for a share of the payout, each will pay $250,000. But there are seven Americans teams involved, five of them in the WHL. If the American teams, which were exempted from the class action, aren’t required to pay, each of the remaining 52 teams would pay more than $288,000.

One of the five players who was in on the lawsuit from the beginning, Samuel Berg (Niagara IceDogs, OHL), is to receive a $20,000 honorarium. Each of the other four — Travis McEvoy (Saskatoon Blades, Vancouver Giants, Portland Winterhawks, WHL), Kyle O’Connor  (Kootenay Ice, WHL), Thomas Gobeil (Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL) and Lukas Walter (Tri-City Americans, WHL; Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL) — is to get $10,000.

As Westhead reported, with the amendments having been made to minimum-wage laws in various provinces and states, “This does not open the door to future claims like this. . . . it’s unlikely the CHL is going to have to worry about a case like this down the road.”

Unless, of course, there are changes in governments and new faces choose to rewrite the employment standards legislation that includes the exemptions from minimum-wage requirements.

“There was a belief the provincial changes showed the CHL to be on the right side of the law,” Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet wrote, “but legal advice indicated the case could continue for up to another decade. That would cost millions in fees and, according to sources, the insurance fund topped out at $30 million. Clearly, that was a major factor in deciding to settle the case.”

What’s next? According to a tweet from Westhead: “After a settlement approval hearing (likely Aug/Sept), eligible players will need to file claims with a court-appointed administrator to get a payout.”

So, as the lawyers like to say on TV, in summation . . . the winners and losers.

Well, the only winners would appear to be the lawyers.

Yes, I would suggest that everyone else loses.

The CHL teams lost because financial filings necessitated by the lawsuit allowed people on the outside to learn just how much money some of these franchises make. Yes, major junior hockey no long is a mom-and-pop operation. It is a big business.

Players, past and present, certainly didn’t win. Yesterday’s players aren’t likely to get more than a few thousand dollars out of this settlement and, as far as today’s players are concerned, nothing is going to change in terms of what they are paid.

Perhaps the biggest winners, aside from the lawyers, of course, are WHL fans in whlcities that won’t lose their teams.

Three years ago, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, issued a statement  after the lawsuit was certified as a class-action. In that statement, Robison said: “If WHL clubs were required to provide minimum wage, in addition to the benefits the players currently receive, the majority of our teams would not be in a position to continue operating.”

That is a position that he repeated more than once or twice over the past three years. Presumably those unnamed franchises won’t cease operations now. Although considering the uncertainties presented by the pandemic-related situation in which all teams now find themselves, you wonder how they will handle getting a bill for more than a quarter of a million dollars.

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“Well, major junior hockey operators in Canada got rid of one of the biggest headaches they’ve had in their history and all it cost them was $30 million, much of it paid by insurance, and a ton of negative headlines. Now they’re free to go back to paying their ‘student athletes’ less than minimum wage,” writes Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.

“Sounds like a pretty good deal for them. Because essentially what has happened when the CHL minimum-wage lawsuit was settled to the tune of $30 million is that the former players who bravely and persistently fought for this chunk of money were able to win in court for themselves and the roughly 3,600 other players in the lawsuit. But in the bigger picture, the Canadian Hockey League won in the far more important political arena by convincing each province to consider its players student athletes, which exempts it from annoying employment standards legislation. Once they managed to do that, they were happy to settle. It’s believed it cost each team about $250,000.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.

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It should be pointed out that what came to be known as the minimum-wage lawsuit doesn’t have anything to do with another class-action lawsuit facing the CHL, its three leagues and Hockey Canada. . . . James McEwan, a former WHL player, filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada in January 2019. The lawsuit later was refiled with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include the OHL and QMJHL. . . . Preliminary discussions regarding the certification of the lawsuit as class action were to have been held in Vancouver in March. If the pandemic didn’t play havoc with that, all parties involved will be awaiting Madam Justice Neena Sharma’s ruling. . . . McEwan played four seasons (2004-08) in the WHL, splitting his time between the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds.


Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, says the league is Kamloops1“trying to figure out what the season’s going to look like . . . when it’s going to start.”

Appearing on TSN 1040 in Vancouver, Gaglardi chatted with Jeff Paterson and The Moj (aka Bob Marjanovich) on Friday.

Gaglardi, who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, frequently mentioned the importance of testing in terms of getting the economy rolling again.

Even for the WHL, he said, “it really all comes down to . . . testing.”

“There’s now a swab,” he said, “that you can get that you can swab your mouth and it tells you in 30 seconds whether you’ve got the virus. If this is something that we can get out into the mainstream market, how far are we from having fans in arenas?

“We’re really waiting for something . . . it may not be a vaccine . . . I’m certainly not counting on a vaccine in 2020. But I do think we’re going to have better testing soon, more access to testing, and somewhere we’re going to get some drug that’s therapeutic that will mean a 65- or 70-year- old guy can go to a hockey game and not worry about dying, and if he comes down with a virus then we can treat him and he’s going to be OK. We need to get to there to get this economy back going.

“At some point I think we’ll get there, with a combination of testing, tracing and hopefully something’s that therapeutic that allows people to feel safe to go to events like hockey.”

Asked about playing WHL games without fans in the building, Gaglardi replied: “The WHL is a gate-driven league. Without people in the buildings, it’s hard to see how we can operate for a great length of time.”

The WHL, according to Gaglardi, has got “contingency plans like every league there is. The Western Hockey League’s not the only league in that position . . . we’ll look at all kinds of scenarios.

“At the same time, too, we’ve got an obligation . . . to develop young hockey players, so if our league starts up a little late . . . we’ve got contingency plans to get the kids into Kamloops and to develop them. We’ve got all kinds of schemes of games and day games and things we might do . . . we take that obligation seriously.”

The complete interview is right here.

Gaglardi’s appearance on the Vancouver radio station came one day after his NHL and AHL organizations were hit with more furloughs, these ones to run through July 3.

Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News reported that the latest cuts included “most of the remaining front office,” but excluded anyone who is a vice-president or higher.

“The Stars’ hockey operations department was not affected by the furloughs, but management, coaches and scouts took 20% pay cuts,” DeFranks wrote.

His complete story is right here.


The junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League will have an expansion franchise in 2020-21 — the Chilliwack Jets. That begins the number of teams in the league to 13. . . . Clayton Robinson, the majority owner, will be the general manager and head coach. . . . The Jets will play out of the Sardis Sports Complex.



Honda Indy Toronto, which had been scheduled for July 10-12, has been cancelled. The move came after the City of Toronto cancelled event permits for major events for July and August. . . .

Organizers for what was to have been Ironman Canada’s return to Penticton, B.C., announced Friday that the event has been cancelled. It had been scheduled for Aug. 30. The Ironman last was held in Penticton in 2012, ending a run that began in 1983. . . .

The GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon has been cancelled for 2020. The 41st running of the event had been scheduled for Oct. 11. Last year’s race drew more than 8,000 participants. . . .


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With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


The U.S. national junior team has filled out its coaching staff by adding four assistants — Ted Donato (Harvard), Theresa Feaster (Providence), Kris Mayotte (U of Michigan) and Steve Miller (Ohio State). All will work alongside head coach Nate Leaman of Providence College. . . . Feaster, the director of men’s hockey operations at Providence, is the first woman named to the coaching staff. She will be Team USA’s video coach. . . . She is the daughter of Jay Feaster, a former NHL general manager with the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning. He now is the Lightning’s vice-president of community hockey development. . . . The 2021 World Junior Championship is scheduled for Red Deer and Edmonton, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.


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

Scattershooting

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


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

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

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

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

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

It was after the game when things really heated up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Annoying


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


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


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



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

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


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


Baseball


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


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



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


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

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

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


Gaglardi ‘suspects’ Lajoie will be back. . . . Habscheid, Love in war of the words. . . . Ice, assistant coach go separate ways


MacBeth

F Aaron Gagnon (Seattle, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Langnau (Switzerland, NL). This season, he had 14 goals and 14 assists in 39 games.


ThisThat

It seems that a lot of folks who follow the WHL are wondering about the coaching situation with the Kamloops Blazers. Specifically, they want to know if Serge Lajoie will be back for a second season as the head coach.

You will be aware that the Blazers went 28-32-8 this season, then beat the Kelowna Kamloops1Rockets in a tiebreaker to get into the playoffs, where they were beaten in six games by the Victoria Royals in a spirited first-round series.

Let’s break down the Blazers’ season a little bit.

Darryl Sydor, one of the franchise’s five owners, was named a full-time assistant coach on Feb. 12. A former Blazers defenceman who went on to play and coach in the NHL, Sydor is a two-time Stanley Cup winner and also won a Memorial Cup.

When the Blazers made that announcement, they were 20-27-5. With Sydor officially on board, they finished the regular-season 8-5-3, won that tiebreaker, then went 2-4 in the playoffs.

So, all told, they were 11-9-3 after the Sydor announcement.

Which brings us to an interview that Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week did with Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner. Here are three questions and answers:

Hastings: Will Serge be the head coach to start next season?

Gaglardi: I suspect so. He’s got a long-term contract and we haven’t had any conversation about anything other than that. We’re very happy with where we are. We had a great finish to the year and we’re excited about next season, but this week is just a week to lick our wounds. This is a series (vs. Victoria) we truly thought we could win.

Hastings: What do you think assistant coach Darryl Sydor brought to the team?

Gaglardi: Darryl really understands what it takes to win and what a successful bench feels like. He’s been a long-time player and had success at the junior level, had success at the NHL level, won a couple of Stanley Cups. He knows what benches need. I think he was really instrumental in figuring out what his role could be to help. Sometimes you’ve got a coach that’s a hard coach and the kids need to be brought up and built back, and Darryl really understands the ying and yang, the methods, and figured out a role that he could help in. He really worked hard to make sure the kids believed they could actually get the job done. He perhaps brought something to the staff that was missing. Darryl is a tremendous guy and I was thrilled when he agreed to join full-time and come on board and he made a difference.

Hastings: Does Darryl have what it takes to be a head coach here or somewhere else?

Gaglardi: I’ve got to think so, if that’s what he wants to do. He’s come home and I think he’d like to be involved in some way. We’ve had lots of talks around this for a long time. What this blossoms into, I’m not sure. He’s a tremendous guy and we’d love to have him involved. He’s got kids playing competitive hockey. I’m not sure where he’s going to be, in terms of level of commitment next year, whether he’s ready to step in and take on some sort of full-time role again with the club. I’m not sure. He did make a big difference to us down the stretch.

That complete interview is right here.

I don’t have any idea what the future holds here. I do know that in the 12 seasons under the ownership of Gaglardi, Sydor, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Mark Recchi, the Blazers have gotten out of the first round twice, been a first-round casualty six times, and have missed the playoffs on four occasions.

Lajoie is the 10th head coach or interim head coach, including Guy Charron on two occasions, this franchise has employed over those 12 seasons.


It’s ‘Game On’ in the Eastern Conference seminal between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades.

The series resumes tonight in Saskatoon, with the Raiders holding a 2-0 lead. Game 3 will be televised by Sportsnet.

Other than the quotes in the above tweets, Ryan Flaherty of Global TV in Saskatoon also Saskatoontweeted this quote from Blades head coach Mitch Love:

“There was four head-whipping incidents (Sunday) night, three of which led to penalties on our side, by their players. So is that embellishment? I don’t know. Is it? I hope they’re getting their necks fixed over there today.”

You’ll recall that prior to the series Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, offered up PrinceAlbertthese thoughts to Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

“They embellish. That’s what they do. They led the league in drawing minors. It’s known around (the league) that they do that. Hopefully, that stops because it’s not a good thing. You look at a guy like Kirby Dach. He’s a good player. I met the young man at the Prospects game. A great kid, awesome kid and really great player. He doesn’t need to embellish. He’s better than that. He’s a good enough player. He doesn’t need to that.”

As Zary reports in a story posted on Monday evening, Love went so far as to suggest that the WHL office needs to be paying more attention to player safety.

“I really chose not to say too much about it up until this point,” Zary quotes Love as having said, “but after watching two games in which I felt there were several incidents — especially (Sunday night’s) hockey game where there was a lot of contact towards players’ heads — I know our league stresses player safety, so I think the real story here is how people have turned a blind eye to that kind of thing, based on comments that were made previously, prior to the start of the series.”

Zary’s story is right here.

And, in case you missed it, here’s some video of Habscheid off the Sportsnet telecast early in Game 2 on Saturday night. . . .


The Winnipeg Ice revealed via Twitter on Monday that the organization and assistant coach Gord Burnett “have agreed to part ways.” Burnett, a native of Regina, just completed his fourth season on the Ice’s coaching staff. . . . According to the Ice’s website, its coaching staff now comprises head coach James Patrick and associate coach Jon Klemm. . . . Patrick, from Winnipeg, and Klemm, who is from Cranbrook, have been with the Ice through two seasons.


F Kyle Olson of the Tri-City Americans has joined the San Diego Gulls, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, on an ATO. From Calgary, Olson was selected by the Ducks in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. He hasn’t signed an NHL contract. . . . This season, Olson, who turned 20 on March 22, had 21 goals and 49 assists in 62 games with the Americans.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed D Matt Smith to a WHL contract. An Edmonton native, Smith was a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . He played this season with the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., Rangers, recording two goals and 10 assists in 41 regular-season and playoff games.


Rick Westhead of TSN filed another story regarding the minimum-wage lawsuit on Monday, and this one really involves the WHL.

“A fight is unfolding in the Western Hockey League minimum-wage class-action lawsuit over the privacy of current and former players who pursue a claim against the league for minimum wage, back pay and overtime,” Westhead writes.

“A year and a half after an Alberta judge certified a minimum-wage lawsuit against the WHL, lawyers for the plaintiffs and the league are now battling over how to notify those players about their right to proceed with a case or, if they choose, withdraw from the litigation.

“The two sides will appear at a hearing in Calgary on Monday to make arguments about the notice the players will be given regarding the lawsuit.”

The complete story is right here.

Westhead also mentioned that “the CHL and its three leagues have been battling minimum-wage lawsuits for the past five years.”

It is hard to fathom that it already has been that long. Wouldn’t you like to know how much money the WHL has spent on legal fees over that time?


F Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks will play for Denmark’s national men’s team in a pair of exhibition games against visiting Finland this week. The games are scheduled for Thursday in Aalborg and Saturday in Vojens. . . . The Danish team, under head coach Heinz Ehlers, dropped eight players from its training camp after weekend workouts. . . . Blichfeld, who won the WHL scoring championship with 114 points in 68 games this season, is hoping to earn a spot on the national men’s A team that will play in the IIHF World Championship in the Slovakian cities of Bratislava and Košice, from May 10 through May 26.


Kevin Kaminski is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice larongeWolves. Kaminski, who is from Churchbridge, Sask., signed a three-year contract. . . . Kaminski, 50, spent three seasons (1986-89) with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades before going on to a pro career that included 139 games in the NHL. . . . For the past three seasons, he has been the head coach of the Western States Hockey League’s Fresno Monsters. . . . The Ice Wolves also announced that Gaelan Patterson, another former Blades skater, will be turning, but as associate GM and associate coach. Patterson finished the season as the team’s interim head coach after the firing of Evan Vossen. . . . The team also said that Travis Hegland will be returning as athletic therapist and trainer.


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NOTES: D Jake Kustra of the Victoria Royals has been suspended for two games after taking a cross-checking major and game misconduct for a hit on F Jared Dmytriw of the DisciplineVancouver Giants at 2:54 of the second period on Saturday. That was in Game 2 of the series. The Giants won, 2-1 in OT, and hold a 2-0 leading going into Game 3 tonight in Victoria. . . .

Meanwhile, the Giants have been fined $750 for, according to the WHL website, “actions of player at end of game” on Saturday night. There was a bit of a brouhaha after Vancouver F Tristen Nielsen scored the game-winner at 3:29 of OT. G Griffen Outhouse of Victoria came out of it with a roughing minor, while Giants D Alex Kannok Leipert was hit with a roughing minor and a game misconduct. I would think it’s safe to assume that he is the “player” in question. . . .

In these playoffs, the WHL’s Dept. of Discipline now has issued 13 suspensions totalling 30 games, and handed out six fines worth a total of $4,250. . . . In all of last season’s playoffs, there were six players suspended for a total of 12 games, and two fines meted out worth $1,250. . . .

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After a quiet Monday night, there are three second-round games on the schedule tonight. . . .

As mentioned, the Vancouver Giants hold a 2-0 lead as they play Game 3 against the Royals in Victoria. The Royals obviously will be without D Jake Kustra, while F Kody McDonald serves the fifth of a six-game suspension. . . . Victoria D Ralph Jarratt left late in Game 3 with an apparent injury to his left shoulder or arm and didn’t return. . . . The Giants are expected to again be without F Aidan Barfoot, who was injured in the first round. . . .

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In Calgary, the Edmonton Oil Kings, with a 2-0 lead, will meet the Hitmen as the Battle of Alberta resumes. . . . Here’s a note from Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun involving the first two games:

“Two games and two won face-offs have ended up the back of the Hitmen net so far in the series.

“The Oil Kings won 3-2 in overtime Saturday after (Mark) Kastelic won a clean draw in his own zone and pulled it back through the legs of an unsuspecting (goaltender Jack) McNaughton and off the goal post. Jake Neighbours was then first to the rebound and knocked it into the net for the game-winner.

“On Sunday, Carson Focht pulled one back from the same face-off circle past McNaughton and into the net to give the Oil Kings a 2-1 lead in the second period.”

As Calgary head coach Steve Hamilton told Van Diest: “It’s not everyday you win two faceoffs and shoot two pucks into your own net in two games. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. That was a bid odd, but it was probably par for the course, too.”

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The Prince Albert Raiders, with a 2-0 lead, venture into Saskatoon to meet the Blades in a game that will be televised by Sportsnet, which also showed the first two games of the series. . . . With the two head coaches firmly involved in a war of the words, it will be interesting to see the attendance in the SaskTel Centre tonight.

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The other second-round series, between the Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs, is to resume on Wednesday. The Chiefs went into Everett and won twice, so they take a 2-0 lead on to home ice. The next three games, if necessary, are scheduled for Spokane because the Cirque du Soleil is in the Angels of the Wind Arena in Everett through Sunday.


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Who’s favoured as 2020 Memorial Cup host? . . . Tigers add d-men . . . Giants get Ettinger from Wheat Kings


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The WHL’s board of governors will gather in Calgary on Wednesday and one of the things on the agenda will be to hear bids from three teams/cities wanting to play host to the 2020 Memorial Cup.

The Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Lethbridge Hurricanes will make their presentations in that order.

Each team will be allotted 15 minutes — five to show a video and 10 for a presentation — after which governors will have 15 minutes to ask questions.

Some thoughts as Taking Note sees it . . .

KELOWNA — The Rockets last played host to the four-team tournament in 2004 and they KelownaRocketsput on a tremendous show, icing the cake by winning the whole thing. . . . Who wouldn’t want to spend 10 days in May in Kelowna? . . . Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors. He is the most-powerful person in the WHL and don’t discount that as a factor. . . . Including standing room, Prospera Place, which opened in 1999, has room for 6,286 fans. . . . The Rockets are off to a slow start (1-4-0) but history shows that they are more likely to be a contender than a pretender come next season. . . . Odds: 1-1.

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LETHBRIDGE — Lethbridge has never been home to the Memorial Cup tournament. . . . LethbridgeThe Hurricanes, under general manager Peter Anholt and Terry Huisman, the general manager of business operations, have made a remarkable turnaround. After the 2014-15 season, the Hurricanes had missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and lost more than $1.25 million. Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was urging shareholders to sell the franchise to private interests. Today, the Hurricanes have reached two straight Eastern Conference finals and shown more than $1 million in profits over those two seasons. . . . On the ice, the future looks bright, led by forwards Dylan Cozens and Logan Barlage, two of the WHL’s best young players. . . . The ENMAX Centre, which opened in 1974 but has undergone recent upgrades, has a capacity of 5,479. . . . Odds: 2-1.

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KAMLOOPS — The Blazers played host to the 1995 tournament, which they won, giving Kamloops1them three Memorial Cup titles in four years. The 2020 tournament will be the 25th anniversary of the third one. . . . Tom Gaglardi and Co. are into their 11th season as the franchise’s owners and have yet to show they can build a winner. That won’t help their cause with the BoG. Neither will the ham-handed fashion in which the retirement/dismissal of Don Hay was handled in May. . . . The Blazers’ new braintrust — headed up by GM Matt Bardsley and head coach Serge Lajoie — hasn’t had time to prove itself. . . . Kamloops, the Tournament Capital of Canada, has a wonderful history of playing host to events like the Brier, the Canada Games and the IIHF World Women’s Championship, something that should hold the bid in good stead. . . . The Sandman Centre had 5,464 seats before some were removed in order to put loge seating in the upper deck on one side. That new seating, in itself, will be an attraction. Unfortunately, the Sandman Centre doesn’t include an on-site restaurant like Prospera Place and the ENMAX Centre. . . . Odds: 5-1.

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THE INTANGIBLE — At the end of the day, money talks . . . and that could be the case MemCup2020again on Wednesday in Calgary. When the WHL’s board of governors votes on a host team/city for the 2020 Memorial Cup, it could easily decide to go with the bid that includes the highest guaranteed profit — teams all get a cut of the profit. If it comes to that, Kamloops may have an edge because the Gaglardi family has more chips than the Kelowna or Lethbridge owners. . . . Earlier this year, Canadian Business estimated the net worth of the Gaglardi family, through Northland Properties, at $3.92 billion, up 10.4 per cent from 2017. . . . Tom Gaglardi owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and is the majority owner of the Blazers. Might he be interested in attempting to buy the hosting rights for the 2020 Memorial Cup?


The Medicine Hat Tigers have added two 20-year-olds to their roster after learning Tigers Logo OfficialMonday that they will be getting back defencemen Dylan MacPherson and Linus Nassen. Both players had been in camp with the NHL’s Florida Panthers before being assigned to the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds. . . . MacPherson, from Redcliff, Alta., has played two seasons with the Tigers, putting up four goals and 18 assists in 124 regular-season games. . . . Nassen, from Sweden, was a third-round pick by the Panthers in the NHL’s 2016 draft. Last season, his first in the WHL, had had one goal and 25 assists in 44 games. . . . With those two in town, the Tigers have four 20-year-olds on their roster, the other two being F Ryan Jevne and D Dalton Gally. . . . As an import, Nassen would be a two-spotter should the Tigers keep him. His arrival won’t affect the Tigers’ import situation as freshmen G Mads Sogaard is their only other European player.


The Vancouver Giants, having lost D Bailey Dhaliwal to a shoulder injury and D Matt VancouverBarberis and D Joel Sexsmith to undisclosed injuries, have acquired D Ty Ettinger from the Brandon Wheat Kings for a seventh-round selection in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reports that Dhaliwal, 19, who has a history of shoulder problems, could be out for six weeks. . . . Ettinger, 18, is from Ardrossan, Alta. He was dropped from Brandon’s roster late last week. The Wheat Kings selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 bantam draft. . . . Last season, as a freshman, he had two goals and five assists in 45 games with Brandon. This season, he was pointless in one game. . . . As Ewen tweeted: “You’d think the Giants would have good intel on Ettinger, since scouting director Daryl Anning is the father of Wheat Kings head coach David Anning.” . . . Ettinger skated with the Giants on Monday afternoon and could make his debut with Vancouver on Wednesday against the Rockets in Kelowna.


With F Brad Goethals, 20, having left the Saskatoon Blades of his own accord, the club has room for a 20-year-old to join F Max Gerlach and D Dawson Davidson. . . . Goethals’ departure also leaves the Blades with 13 forwards, when they might prefer to carry 14. . . . Goethals was a prolific scorer during two seasons with the midget AAA Eastman Selects (129 points, including 73 goals, in 83 games), but wasn’t able to replicate that in the WHL. He had three goals and three assists in 23 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17, and followed that up with 15 goals and 17 assists in 69 games with the Blades last season. . . . This season, he had one goal in three games with Saskatoon.


Stan Butler wasn’t behind the bench when the North Bay Battalion dropped a 7-5 OHL ohldecision to the host Oshawa Generals on Sunday night. According to the North Bay Nugget, Butler, the Battalion’s director of hockey operations and head coach since 1998-99, said before the game that he plans to take time “to try to get some things sorted out.” Butler, 62, apparently met with Oshawa’s club doctor before deciding not to go behind the bench on Sunday. . . . Butler was behind the bench on Saturday night for a 6-1 loss to the Niagara IceDogs in St. Catharines. . . . In Butler’s absence, assistant coaches Scott Wray and Adam Dennis ran the bench. . . . Butler is the fourth-winningest head coaching OHL history, his 703 victories trailing Brian Kilrea (1,194), Bert Templeton (907) and Dale Hunter (728). . . . Butler spent one season (1996-97) in the WHL, as the head coach of the Prince George Cougars.



MONDAY NIGHT NOTES:

The Prince Albert Raiders have dropped F Nikita Krivokrasov, who will turn 18 on Dec. 23, from their roster. From Westminster, Colo., he is the son of former NHLer Sergei Krivokrasov. . . . Nikita was pointless in two games with the Raiders in 2016-17, and had three goals in 34 games last season. . . . He didn’t dress for any of the Raiders’ first five games the season.

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The Regina Pats are down to two goaltenders after dropping Matthew Pesenti, 17, from their roster. He is expected to return for a third season with the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers. . . . The Pats now are left with two 18-year-old goaltenders — returnee Max Paddock and Dean McNabb, who was acquired from the Victoria Royals on Sept. 24. . . . Paddock has started all four games as the Pats have started 0-4-0. McNabb has gotten into one game since joining Regina.

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A pair of WHLers drew three-game suspensions on Monday. . . . F Tristen Nielsen of the Calgary Hitmen was suspended after taking a boarding major and game misconduct during a game against the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Sunday. . . . F Cade McNelly was disciplined after becoming involved in what the WHL refers to as a “one-man fight” during a Saturday night game against the Winterhawks in Portland.

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Hey, Lane Lambert and Ross Mahoney . . . I can see you smiling all the way from Kamloops. Congratulations!

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The Calgary Flames revealed Monday that D Juusu Valimaki, 19, will open the NHL season on their roster. Valimaki, from Finland, will turn 20 on Oct. 6. The Flames selected him in the first round, 16th overall, of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . Valimaki played the past three seasons with the Tri-City Americans. Last season, he had 14 goals and 31 assists in 43 games. In 159 career regular-season games, he recorded 40 goals and 98 assists. . . . The Flames also have F Dillon Dube, 20, on their roster. Dube, from Golden, B.C., was a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft. He spent the past four seasons with the Kelowna Rockets, putting up 232 points, including 101 goals, in 203 regular-season games. Last season, he finished with 38 goals and 46 assists in 43 games. . . .

George Johnson of calgaryflames.com has more right here.


Feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and add to the Taking Note coffee fund.


If you are a WHL fan and are on Twitter, you should be following Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow). He regularly tweets interesting notes and stats involving WHL teams and players, such as this one from Sunday night:


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Hay may be retired from Blazers, but he’s not done . . . What next in Kamloops? . . . Little Montreal days a distant memory

Don Hay is many things . . . father . . . grandfather . . . runner . . . a man who works out regularly . . . proud Kamloopsian . . . an icon in the community . . .

One thing he isn’t is retired.

Oh, he may be done as the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, but it’s obvious he doesn’t feel that his coaching career is done.

That became evident Friday morning as Hay read a prepared statement and then answered questions from the media vultures outside the Blazers’ dressing room.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the WHL franchise, had

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Don Hay, as the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, talks with the media after a game earlier this season. (Photo: Gregg Drinnan)

announced that Hay had decided to retire. Gaglardi also said that once he learned of Hay’s decision — as incredible as it sounds, Gaglardi didn’t speak to Hay— the owners decided to move out general manager Stu MacGregor, lead assistant coach Mike Needham and Matt Recchi, the director of player personnel, as well.

Hay completed the fourth season of his second stint as the Blazers’ head coach in March. His first stint, with the Blazers’ then under  community ownership, included a couple of Memorial Cup titles. His second stint, under private ownership headed up by Gaglardi, didn’t go nearly as well.

In fact, the Blazers experienced two first-round playoff exits and two non-playoff seasons during Hay’s most-recent stop. This season, they lost their first nine games and weren’t able to dig out of that hole.

Between the end of the season, during which Hay never once indicated that he was the least bit interested in retirement, and Gaglardi’s announcement, Hay spent a month as the head coach of the Canadian under-18 team that played in the IIHF World Championship in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk, Russia. Does that sound like something a career coach would do just before retiring?

Also, do you really think that Hay, who turned 64 on Feb. 13, wants to go out on the kind of season his team had in 2017-18?

No. No. No . . . just no to everything.

At one point on Friday, Hay was asked: “Do you think cleaning house is the right way to go?”

Hay replied: “I don’t know if that is a good question to ask somebody who just got let go, so, you know . . . who just made the decision to move or go to a different role.”

Whether that was a slip of the tongue or a look into what really went on, Hay, who has more regular-season and playoff victories than any coach in WHL history, isn’t retired. OK?

What he is right now, more than anything, is confused. That is what showed through on Friday.

He appeared to be confused and hurt by the fact that his decision to walk away from the Blazers’ bench apparently resulted in ownership clearing out three other people.

It seems that Hay had conversations with Don Moores, the franchise’s president, COO and alternate governor. (Moores, once a shareholder in the community-owned team, spoke out against the sale of the franchise in 2006 and 2007, then joined the front office two summers ago.) Moores obviously reported to Gaglardi, one thing led to another, and Hay’s decision led to three other departures.

MacGregor is gone after having completed three seasons in his second turn as general manager. He replaced Craig Bonner six games into the 2015-16 season and now, like Bonner, has had a soft landing on the Dallas Stars’ scouting staff. The Stars, of course, are owned by Gaglardi.

The Blazers also dumped Needham, who had been on the coaching staff, in either a part-time or full-time role, since 2010. Needham — wink! wink! — has been told that he can apply for the head-coaching position or the assistant’s spot from which he was just deposed.

Recchi spent 10 seasons as the director of player personnel. He is the brother of Mark Recchi, who is one of the four ex-Blazers in Gaglardi’s ownership group, the others being Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Darryl Sydor.

Hay will remain with the Blazers as an advisor, which is the same thing they did with Guy Charron after his first go-round as head coach.

I would suggest that Hay likely saw some writing on the wall and chose to walk away from the Blazers’ bench. I’m sure he is aware that this is an ownership group that has been stumbling around like a thirsty man in the Serengeti for the better part of 11 years. I’m sure Hay knows that the Blazers haven’t drafted well and that there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. At this stage of his career, he has to know that there are a lot of different places to coach if he wants to continue, and he does. He also knows that the ownership group’s dream of playing host to the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament is a pipe dream, so that didn’t figure in any part  of his decision.

In an interview with Jon Keen, the radio voice of the Blazers, Gaglardi said: “I think we have failed in all three facets. We haven’t coached well enough, we haven’t drafted well enough and we haven’t managed well enough . . . and I guess by extension, we haven’t owned well enough.”

No, they haven’t owned well enough. Not even close. And this is on ownership. All of it. The whole mess.

This goes back to when these guys bought the franchise. In 11 seasons under this ownership group, the Blazers have missed the playoffs four teams and lost out in the first round on five occasions. They have been beaten in the second round once and made it to the Western Conference final once.

This ownership group has burned through eight head coaches, nine if you count both of Charron’s turns. Dean Clark, Greg Hawgood, Barry Smith, Scott Ferguson, Charron, Dave Hunchak, Mark Ferner, Charron (again), and Hay. Hawgood, Ferguson and Ferner were interim head coaches, signalling midseason coaching changes.

None of those coaches has moved to a higher level. At least five of them, including Hay, aren’t even coaching, at least not now.

There has been a distinct lack of excitement around the organization, which didn’t even hold a news conference when Hay returned to Kamloops after a 10-season run as head coach of the Vancouver Giants.

What must happen now is that these owners have to find a general manager who has no loyalties to anyone in the organization, and who is prepared to make like he is taking over an expansion franchise. Yes, it’s time to start over, to rebuild this organization from the ground up.

How sad are things in Kamloops, whose WHL franchise once was so successful that the city was known in hockey circles as Little Montreal?

Had you visited the Blazers’ website on Friday evening, more than 24 hours after Gaglardi announced the purge, you would have discovered that Don Hay is the team’s head coach, and Stu MacGregor is the general manager, and Mike Needham is an assistant coach, and Matt Recchi is the director of player personnel.

Embarrassing? Yes. Sad? For sure. But that seems to be the way of the Kamloops Blazers these days.