Lots of food for thought in losses by Broncos and Warriors . . . QMJHL increases penalties for fighting at government request . . . Mustangs cleared for return to ice

Four of the WHL’s 22 teams are publicly owned and, as such, are obligated to hold annual general meetings and to release their financial statements.

Two of those teams — the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos — whlannounced combined losses of more than $1 million on Tuesday night, something that should have set off alarm bells among fans hoping for some kind of 2020-21 season.

Moose Jaw finished the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season in last place in the East Division, while Swift Current was in the cellar of the Central Division. So neither team was in line to reap the rewards that come with qualifying for the playoffs.

The Broncos, whose average attendance dropped 444 from the previous season, lost $791,000, ending a run of six straight seasons in which they had shown a profit. Season-ticket sales were down 345, which is a big number for a team that plays in a 2,879-seat facility.

The Warriors, with their attendance down 366 per game, lost $391,299, running their two-season deficit to $556,444.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Randy Palmer of moosejawtoday.com reported that the team attributed $282,286 of its deficit  to “pandemic-related lost revenues.”

The Warriors also had to pay $180,846 as its share of the settlement of a $30-MooseJawWarriorsmillion class-action lawsuit, although that settlement has yet to be approved by the court. Still, assuming that it is, each of the WHL’s Canadian teams will be on the hook for that amount.

The Warriors, Palmer reported right here, still have $610,653 in the bank, but they did defer their annual $200,000 payment that is part of their commitment to the Multiplex. They have two payments left in a 10-year pledge.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Warriors Booster Club raised $238,771 in 2019-20.

The Warriors, like all WHL teams, are going to have a different organizational look whenever it is that play resumes. As club president Chad Taylor told Palmer: “We’ll need the help of the community when we get going again and hockey will look different — our staff will look different, we’ll be leaner — but that is the times and we’ll make it work.”

The Broncos, meanwhile, also will be leaner. These days, Dean Brockman, the SCBroncosdirector of hockey operations and head coach, is the only employee working on the hockey side of things, with Nathan MacDonald and Ryan Stricker on the business side. Their retail store — The Stable — is open and management has authorized 10 paid hours per week for communications.

Trent McLeary, a former Broncos player who now is chairman of the team’s board of directors, said after the AGM that “it’s a fight to survive,” stating that it will take the franchise years to recover from the loss.

“It’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” McLeary told Steven Mah of the Southwest Booster. “We don’t think we have to make this up in one year . . . so there’s lots of challenges, lots of things that are going to challenge us as an organization, as a community. But we’re not the only ones, you look at baseball, you look at soccer, you look at everything.”

(Mah’s story is right here.)

The WHL’s two other publicly owned teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — have yet to hold their annual general meetings.

The Raiders’ meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7. Following the 2018-19 season, one Raiders50in which they won the WHL championship, they announced a profit of $633,314. In the previous five seasons, they had shown losses totalling $806,571 in four of them; the exception being a profit of $3,892 in 2015-16.

When the 2019-20 season was halted, the Raiders were 36-18-10 and had clinched first place in the East Division. They had two home games remaining and may well have had a deep playoff run in their future. Their average attendance also was up 27 over the previous season, meaning the championship love affair in that city still was in full bloom.

The Hurricanes have said they will hold their AGM on a November date that Lethbridgehasn’t yet been announced.

They are coming off four straight profit-making seasons. Last season’s profit of $282,168 allowed the four-season total to grow to $1,639,321. (Don’t forget, though, that they had losses totalling more than $1.25 million in the previous five seasons.)

When the 2019-20 season ended, Lethbridge was 37-19-7 and third in the Central Division. Its attendance was down one fan per game, to 3,970, over 2018-19. Still, it lost three home dates to the cancellation, and who knows how many playoff games were in its future?

The Hurricanes pay the City of Lethbridge an annual maintenance fee of $166,667 for their home arena, the Enmax Centre. Last month, the Hurricanes and the City agreed to a one-year deferment of that payment, in the process adding a year to the arena lease that now runs through 2029-30. The Hurricanes asked for the deferment, citing revenues lost to the pandemic.

We will find out in November just how much they lost.

I would suggest that the four publicly owned franchises are far from being the WHL’s biggest spenders. Of course, the privately owned teams don’t have to share their numbers with the public. But judging by what the Broncos and Warriors reported, and what is surely to come from the Hurricanes and Raiders, you have to think there is some major pain being felt.

And that’s why the WHL can’t afford to start a season without being able to operate at less than 50 per cent capacity in its arenas. The losses from a season played without restrictions, albeit a shortened one, were large. Losses from a season played without fans in the stands would be mind-numbing.


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Here, in summation, is what I believe has happened with the QMJHL and qmjhlnewfighting. . . . The league approached the government and asked for $20 million in subsidies to help its 12 Quebec-based team get through the pandemic. . . . Isabelle Charest, a former Olympic speed skater who is the junior education minister, suggested the league needed to do more to eliminate fighting. . . . On Wednesday, the QMJHL’s board of governors voted to slap a fighter with a major and a misconduct, meaning that player would have to sit out 15 minutes. A player also would face a one-game suspension after accumulating three fights, with more time off for each fight after that. . . . Here is the QMJHL’s Rule 47: “All players involved in a fight will now be assessed a misconduct penalty (duration of 10 minutes) which will be added to the major penalty (five minutes), except if a player involved is considered an instigator or an aggressor. An automatic one-game suspension will be assessed after the third fight, and for any additional fight.” . . . There is a chart right here that explains all possible situations. . . . I guess we can assume the QMJHL now is awaiting an etransfer from the government.


Flushot


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs said Wednesday that they have been “approved to resume our training hockey-related activities.” Things had been on hold since Sept. 25 when one of their players tested positive. . . . According to the Mustangs, all tests “administered . . . this week have come back negative and there is no risk of the spread of the virus.: . . .

The Tennessee Titans have a reported nine positive tests in their organization, and the NFL has said their game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers that had been scheduled for Sunday will be played Monday or Tuesday. . . . The Titans have halted football-related activities until at least Saturday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings, who played the visiting Titans on Sunday, haven’t had any positives. They should return to their practice facility today (Thursday). . . .

The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are forecasting a $10-million loss, revealed Wednesday that they have terminated some employees and laid off others in both business and football operations. . . . In a statement, the team said it “had to make significant adjustments to our workforce including temporary and permanent layoffs in both the Business Operations and Football Operations.” . . . Matt Lowry, a content provider with the team for four years, tweeted that he had been laid off, and added: “There’s too many awesome co-workers to thank, but you know who you are, and you’ll hear from me. And please WEAR A MASK so we can all enjoy the 2021 CFL season from wherever you may be.” . . .

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is in the process of terminating 40 per cent of its staff at TD Place. The arena and stadium are home to the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, both of which are owned by OSEG. However, staff from those teams weren’t included in the terminations. . . .

MLB announced Wednesday that it will allow about 11,500 fans into NLCS and World Series games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Fans haven’t been allowed into MLB games since spring training. . . . Face masks will be mandatory and, according to MLB, “No seats will be sold within 20 feet of where a player can be located on the field, in the dugouts or in the bullpen.” . . . Some numbers from Deadspin’s Jesse Spector: “In September, there were 6,913 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County, Texas, including 447 reported on Wednesday, the final day of the month. That brings the cumulative tally for the county to 46,527 people stricken by coronavirus, with 721 dead from the pandemic.”



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JUST NOTES: Steve Hogle, who spent six seasons as president of the Saskatoon Blades, has been hired as the general manager of Hockey Edmonton. Hogle is from Edmonton and played minor hockey there. Before joining the Blades, he was with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers as vice-president of communications and broadcasting. He replaces the retiring Dean Hengel with Hockey Edmonton. . . . The Minnesota Twins, who were eliminated from the American League playoffs yesterday, have lost 18 straight post-season games, going back to 2004. Since then, the Houston Astros, who finished off the Twins, have won 43 playoff games. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has a good look at Al Murray, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s assistant GM and director of amateur scouting, right here. It’s well worth your time.


Books

Silvertips one win from WHL final . . . East final heating up . . . Broncos tell rowdy bunch to cool it

ThisThat

G Carter Hart stopped 29 shots on Thursday night, leading the visiting Everett Silvertips Everettto a 3-1 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . The result left the Silvertips with a 3-1 lead in the WHL’s best-of-seven Western Conference final, with Game 5 scheduled for Everett tonight (Saturday). . . . The Silvertips took a 2-0 second-period lead on goals from F Riley Sutter (6) and F Reece Vitelli (4), and never looked back. . . . Vitelli, who scored twice in 70 regular-season games, has four goals in 14 playoff games. . . . F Matt Fonteyne (6) added an empty-netter for the winners, after F Riley Sawchuk (2) had scored for the home side. . . . Everett F Martin Fasko-Rudas left the game with an undisclosed injury. His status for Game 5 isn’t likely to be known much before tonight’s pregame warmup. . . . The announced attendance was 3,537, representing the Americans’ largest crowd in six home playoff games. The Americans’ average announced attendance in these playoffs is 3,056 in the 6,000-seat Toyota Center. . . . During the regular season, the Americans’ average, according to announced attendance figures, was 3,649.


The WHL’s Eastern Conference final, with the Swift Current Broncos and Lethbridge Hurricanes tied 2-2, is scheduled to resume tonight (Saturday) in Swift Current.

Things seem to be heating up, too, especially off the ice.

Following Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, won 5-1 by the host Hurricanes on Wednesday, Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Broncos, used his Twitter account to take Lethbridge hockey fans to task.

Dylan Purcell, a former Lethbridge Herald sports writer, chimed in with a tweet of his own.

Estephan, 20, played 288 regular-season games with the Hurricanes and was the team captain when he and G Stuart Skinner were traded to the Broncos in January.

Lethbridge fans responded Wednesday by booing Estephan when he was in possession of the puck. Of course, they also verbally abused Skinner, but that pretty much comes with the territory for a visiting team’s goaltender, doesn’t it?

Skinner responded by saying: “I’m fine with it. I like when fans get on me, but I would have expected a little bit more respect for the fans. Especially after everything me and Giorgio did for them.

“It kind of shows you the type of respect they have for us and how fast things can change. I’m fine with it . . . I saw it coming a long (time) ago.

“I want to beat the fans now. I’m ready to go.”

Meanwhile, in advance of Game 5, the Broncos announced a crackdown on “abusive or violent behaviour” at their home games. It seems the rowdies have been in evidence there, too.

In a news release, Trent McLeary, the organization’s acting chairman, stated that the SCBroncosteam “would like to ensure all of our fans that we are aware of incidents that have occurred at a couple of games in the first two rounds of playoffs involving visiting fans from Regina and Moose Jaw.

“Management from the hockey club has discussed behavioural issues with a number of individuals involved in incidents and made them aware there is zero tolerance for this behaviour in the future. All fans should be aware that abusive or violent behaviour will result in removal from the facility by security personnel and may be subject to review by the RCMP. . . .

“There have also been changes made to the seating arrangements for visiting fans to ensure everyone is having a safe and fun time at our events. We encourage our fans to hold themselves and others to a high standard that reflects appropriately on the hockey club and our community.”


The SJHL-champion Nipawin Hawks, led by three goals and an assist from F Brandan Arnold, downed the host Steinbach Pistons, 4-3, on Friday night in Game 1 of the ANAVET Cup. The best-of-seven series features the SJHL and MJHL champions against each other with the winner getting a berth in the Royal Bank Cup tournament at Prospera Place in Chilliwack, B.C., May 12-20. . . . Arnold snapped a 3-3 tie with his third goal at 18:56 of the third period. . . . They’ll play Game 2 tonight (Saturday) in Steinbach. . . . Arnold, 21, is from Dodsland, Sask. He has played 80 WHL games over three seasons, all with the Swift Current Broncos, recording five goals and five assists. . . . The Hawks got 29 saves from G Declan Hobbs.

In Wenatchee, Wash., F A.J. Vanderbeck scored at 6:17 of OT to give the BCHL-champion Wild a 3-2 victory over the AJHL-champion Spruce Grove Saints in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series for the Doyle Cup. . . . They’ll play Game 2 in Wenatchee tonight (Saturday). . . . Vanderbeck, 20, is from Monument, Colo. In 20 playoff games, he put up 13 goals and 15 assists. . . . F Lukas Svejkovsky gave the Wild a 2-1 lead at 12:51 of the third period. . . . Spruce Grove D Brad Forrest tied it at 14:22. . . . The announced attendance was 2,486.


TheCoachingGame

Jeff Tambellini is the new general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Trail Smoke TrailEaters. He replaces Cam Keith, who was fired on April 9 after two seasons on the job and despite having gotten the Smokies into the Interior Division final, where they lost in five games to the eventual-champion Wenatchee Wild. . . . From Port Moody, B.C., Tambellini played two seasons with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, during which he was named junior A player of the year in 2001-02. He played at the U of Michigan for three seasons before going on to a pro career that included 242 NHL games and finished in Europe. . . . He spent this season, his first after retiring as a player, as an assistant coach at the U of Michigan. . . . Tambellini’s father, Steve, is from Trail, while Steve’s father, Addie, played for the 1960-61 Smoke Eaters, the last amateur team from Canada to win the IIHF world championship.


Jay Woodcroft is the new head coach of the Bakersfield Condors, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Woodcroft takes over from Gerry Fleming who, along with assistant coach Tony Borgford, were fired. . . . Woodcroft, 41, spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach with the Oilers, under head coach Todd McLellan. The two of them also were together for three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and seven with the San Jose Sharks. . . . This season, the Condors finished 31-27-9-1. They were seventh in the eight-team Pacific Division and missed the playoffs. . . . The Oilers also dumped assistant coaches Ian Herbers and Jim Johnson. . . . Herbers just completed a three-year sabbatical from the U of Alberta Golden Bears and will be returning to that post. Serge Lajoie, who was the head coach in Herberrs’ absence, has been interviewed by the Saskatoon Blades, who are looking for a head coach to replace the fired Dean Brockman. . . . With Herbers behind the bench, the Golden Bears won the Canadian university championship in 2014 and 2015. Lajoie just led the Golden Bears to the 2018 title.


Dominique Ducharme, the head coach of Canada’s national junior team at each of the past two World Junior Championships, has been signed as an assistant coach by the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. . . . A veteran QMJHL coach, Ducharme spent the past two seasons as GM/head coach of the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Prior to that, he was the head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads for five seasons. . . . The Canadiens also announced that assistant coaches Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Dan Lacroix won’t return, while goaltender coach Stephane Waite has signed a new contract.


MacBeth

F Mike Aviani (Spokane, 2009-14) signed a one-year contract extension with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, Erste Bank Liga). A dual Croatian-Canadian citizen, he had 10 goals and 14 assists in 50 games. . . .

F Andrew Clark (Brandon, 2005-09) signed a one-year contract extension with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). In 54 games, he had 24 goals and 35 assists. He led his team in scoring and was sixth in the league’s scoring race. . . .

F Ryan Hollweg (Medicine Hat, 1999-2004) signed a one-year contract extension with Plzeň (Czech Republic, Extraliga). In 41 games, he had two goals and two assists. Next season will be his seventh with Plzeň. . . .

D Troy Rutkowski (Portland, 2008-13) signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Sparta Sarpsborg (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he had 20 goals and 27 assists in 45 games. He led his team in goals, led the league in goals and points by a defenceman, and was named to the league’s all-star team. . . .

D Kristian Khenkel (Lethbridge, 2013-14) signed a one-year contract extension with Dinamo Minsk (Belarus, KHL). In 55 games, he had two goals and three assists. . . .

F Greg Scott (Seattle, 2005-09) signed a one-year contract extension with CSKA Moscow (Russia, KHL). An alternate captain, he had six goals and seven assists in 36 games.


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