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.


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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

DonHay
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.