If you’re wondering, Dave Ayres and his wife, Sarah, are expected back in the Toronto area today (Wednesday) after being feted in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday. You will recall that Ayres, who had a kidney transplant in 2004, is the EBUG (emergency backup goaltender) who helped the Carolina Hurricanes beat the host Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3, on Saturday night. . . . They are expected to be back in Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night where he again will be the EBUG, this time with the Vancouver Canucks in to play the Maple Leafs. . . . You don’t suppose that he might . . . nah, never happen.
David Ayres is signing autographs in the concourse before the Hurricanes game. The line is long. The first person in line? A season-ticket holder who is also a kidney donor. pic.twitter.com/j0Vsxm8iji
Congrats to Trevor Weisgerber, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Weisgerber, 40, who underwent a kidney transplant in St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon on Jan. 26, has been named winner of the Joe Bloski Award as the league’s coach of the year. . . . The Warriors went 30-13-1 and tied for fourth place in the 12-team league, one point out of third and seven short of first. They will open a first-round playoff series against the visiting Notre Dame Hounds on Thursday. . . . Weisgerber told me on Tuesday that “I am feeling pretty good . . . the fun begins on Thursday!” . . . If you aren’t familiar with Weisgerber’s story, you will find it all right here.
Did you know that our Athletic Performance Advisor/Men’s soccer assistant coach Peter Soberlak is also a musician? 🎶 🎸 🎵 https://t.co/TqwJS155AR
Grant Rezansoff, who played two seasons (1979-81) with the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, died on Saturday at his home in Red Wing, Minn. A native of Surrey, B.C., he was 58. . . . In his second season with the Cougars, he scored 40 goals and added 57 assists. . . . After moving on from the WHL, Rezansoff played in the International and Central leagues before spending two seasons in Europe. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.
The New York Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla, who last played in 2001, a total of $1,193, 248.20 a year until 2035. Now we are free to wonder if the NHL is headed into the same territory. . . . At the NHL trade deadline, it was pointed out that the Buffalo Sabres are paying D Christian Ehrhoff the nice sum of $857,143 per year until 2028. He last played with the Sabres in 2013-14 and was last in the NHL in 2015-16 with the Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Meanwhile, F Ilya Kovalchuk, who has gone from the Los Angeles Kings to the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals in the past few weeks, is taking up cap space on four different NHL teams, with the New Jersey Devils also in the Payin’ Ilya Club.
No one is very eager to hear it, but I've been saying for years this is why fighting and eventually open ice hitting will be outlawed in the junior game. The insurance costs will price them out of hockey. For better or worse, the sport will have to move in a new direction. https://t.co/PIixzQhPC0
Until reading a book titled Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey, by Jeremy Allingham, I wasn’t aware that former Seattle Thunderbirds/Kelowna Rockets enforcer James McEwan had filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada.
It turns out that the lawsuit now is more encompassing that that, as Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out here:
“Already facing a class-action lawsuit over not paying its players a minimum wage, the three major junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League could soon find themselves facing a concussion lawsuit that could include hundreds, if not thousands, of former frequent fighters in junior hockey.
“What started as a lawsuit launched against the CHL, the WHL and Hockey Canada by former WHL player James McEwan in January 2019 was recently re-filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include both the OHL and QMJHL. Six days after the lawsuit was re-filed, the QMJHL postponed a vote on whether or not to ban fighting, a vote that was scheduled for that day, but was moved to August.”
JUST NOTES: Having heard about Sabrina Ionescu in recent days, I got a chance to watch her on a TSN channel on Monday night as her Oregon Ducks beat the host Stanford Cardinal. Earlier in the day, Ionescu had spoken at the memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi — Ionescu was close with both of them. She also was fighting a flu bug and apparently was sick to her stomach before the game. The 5-foot-11 point guard then went out and led the Ducks to victory, in the process becoming the first player, male or female, in NCAA Division 1 history to have career totals of at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Yes, she is quite a player. Try to tune in if the Ducks are on TV again. . . . How goofy has the NHL’s trade deadline day become? Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports, singling out one incident from Monday: “The best moment of the day came when Johnny Gaudreau inexplicably left the ice at the Calgary Flames practice, leading everyone to freak out and speculate. It turns out he just had to pee. Trade deadline day is the best.”
Trevor Weisgerber has some catching up to do, and he hardly can wait.
Weisgerber can’t remember the last time he sat down with his wife, Laurren, and two children — London, 7, and Ty, 4 — to watch a movie and actually was awake for the end.
That’s what happens when you are dealing with kidney disease.
These days, though, Weisgerber, in his first season as head coach the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, is a couple of weeks removed from having a kidney transplant, and he’s feeling like a new man.
In a conversation with Weisgerber from his Moose Jaw home on Monday, he recalled life in the years before the transplant:
“You’re gone all day working and running around and doing what you do. I would take the kids to hockey, be on the ice as much as possible at their practices, but as soon as I came home, my heart rate would go down . . . instantly sleeping.
“We would watch a movie . . . I’d be lucky if I got through the introductions. In the last two years, I don’t think I’ve seen more than a quarter through a movie.”
When I spoke with him, he was 15 days removed from the transplant and his voice was vibrating with energy and enthusiasm.
“It’s definitely life-changing,” he said. “I’m only two weeks in but I can tell the difference already.
“I feel better after two weeks than I have the last two years. It’s incredible . . . absolutely incredible.”
Weisgerber, 40, has known for 11 years that he had a rare kidney disease known as Mucin-1, which has run rampant through one side of his family.
“It goes through our whole family . . . one Grandpa and his siblings . . . through all their families. It’s pretty crazy,” Weisgerber said. “There’s not a lot they can do right now, but I’m hoping with more testing that they can figure out something for our kids or even our kids’ kids.”
Weisgerber, a native of Vibank, Sask., was a point-producer during his playing days, which included stops with the Beardy’s Rage and Yorkton Terriers in the SJHL, three seasons at Lake Superior State U, and seven seasons in the now-defunct Central league.
(If you run a Google search for ‘Trevor Weisgerber hit’, you will find the above YouTube video of a concussion-inducing check that left Weisgerber unconscious and ultimately ended his playing career.)
It was while Weisgerber was in the CHL with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees that he found out he had Mucin-1. During his preseason physical it was discovered that his creatinine level was abnormally high. Creatinine is a waste product that is the result of normal muscle use. The kidneys filter the creatinine from the blood and pass it into the urine.
“I ended up getting a biopsy done and they said that I had it,” he said. “I monitored it from then on.”
At that time, his glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was in the 55 range. GFR is the best way to measure kidney function. For instance, my wife, Dorothy, began peritoneal dialysis (PD) when her GFR reached 10. She had a transplant on Sept. 23, 2013 and her GFR now is in the mid- to high-60s.
Weisgerber’s kidney function kept declining until April 2018 when he ended up on PD.
“My kidney function was around five or six,” he recalled, “so they said I needed to do that.”
Kidney patients on PD hook up to a machine called a cycler for about eight hours at home every night. In short, the cycler drains toxins from the body through the use of fluids.
The cycler now is in Weisgerber’s past and he couldn’t be happier.
“Obviously, a guy is going to be on medications for the rest of his life, and they can cause complications,” Weisgerber said. “But just to be able to live a normal life and not have to hook up to that machine . . . just the routine of having to go to bed at a certain time and having to be on that machine for eight hours, and hooking it up . . . just little things that you don’t realize.
“Before I got the transplant, I was super itchy from all the toxins; it was crazy. The most uncomfortable . . . just so, so itchy. One of the biggest things is that I don’t have that itching anymore.”
In Weisgerber’s case, it was hoped that PD would be beneficial and keep him going until later this year because a cousin was going through testing in the hopes of being a living donor.
However, PD wasn’t being as effective as it had been, which brings us to Jan. 25.
Weisgerber’s daughter, London, was playing in a hockey tournament and he was in the penalty box, running the clock. All of a sudden his phone rang; it was a number from Saskatoon. He didn’t answer it. It rang again. He still didn’t answer. When it rang a third time, he decided that it might be a good idea to see who was calling.
Well, it was Dr. Abubaker Hassan, a nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
“Dr. Hassan said, ‘We have a kidney for you. . . . we need you up in Saskatoon,’ ” Weisgerber said. “It was like, holy moly.
“It was really unexpected. You’re scared; you don’t know what to expect. I have an uncle who had gone through it three years ago. He filled me in on everything but, still, you don’t know what to expect.”
When the call ended, Weisgerber went home, packed and headed for Saskatoon. He had surgery the next day.
“Everything went really well,” he said, noting that he spent 10 days in hospital before returning home. For now, he will visit Regina or Saskatoon once a week for bloodwork and checkups.
Weisgerber understands that his new kidney came from a “younger gentleman in Edmonton” who had died. The Weisgerbers will be in touch with the deceased donor’s family, something that is done, at least in the beginning, through a case worker.
Weisgerber plans on writing a letter, while Ty and London “are making pictures and everything.”
“We’re just super fortunate,” he said. “I’m just excited that a guy can live his life again and be somewhat normal here. They say it helps with their healing process, too. The whole thing is emotional.
“Obviously, it isn’t good that a person passed away. But it’s good that he was an organ donor and he does give a life.”
During the process leading up to a transplant involving a deceased donor, the recipient is told that there may well be a feeling of guilt because he/she actually is benefitting from someone else’s death.
Weisgerber said that hasn’t bothered him, but that “it does get a guy emotional, that you’re that fortunate to be able to be a match to that person . . . that he was an organ donor and he pretty much gave a guy a new chance at life.”
These days, Weisgerber’s focus is on getting on with his life, which means looking after a few rental properties and a return to his hockey team. As of Monday, he had missed three games; he expects to miss four more as the Warriors finish their regular season.
Transplant recipients take anti-rejection medications for the remainder of their lives, something that compromises their immune systems. As a result, Weisgerber has been told that it might not be a good idea for him to be in a dressing room or on a bus, at least not in the early days as his system adjusts to the changes.
“The plan is to be back for playoffs at the end of the month,” he said. “The way things are going and the way I feel I can’t see why I wouldn’t be. I’m really looking forward to getting back with the guys and having a long playoff run here.”
The Warriors (29-10-1), who were in first place for a lot of the season, were second in the 12-team league, two points behind the Regina Pat Canadians (29-7-5) and three ahead of the Saskatoon Contacts (27-13-2). Moose Jaw also went 5-1-1 at the Mac’s tournament in Calgary, where they dropped a 6-2 decision to the Calgary Buffaloes on New Year’s Day.
In terms of Weisgerber’s schedule, the surgery couldn’t have been scheduled at a better time. As he said: “It was absolutely perfect. It’s actually incredible that it happened then.”
The Warriors had 10 days off while he was away and his primary business — Epic Hockey — doesn’t start a new cycle until July when he begins working with midget AAA, junior and professional players who are preparing for new seasons. He also runs skill development camps, spring teams and conditioning camps for minor hockey players. During hockey seasons, he often travels to smaller communities to work with minor programs.
That all began after he spent one season as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers and two (2010-12) as an assistant with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.
It was after his stint in the WHL that he started Epic Hockey.
Now, with a renewed energy level, he can hardly wait to get back on the ice.
“You don’t really realize how you feel,” he said. “I was super tired all the time, didn’t have a lot of energy. You would work and do stuff but at the end of the day, as soon as you sat down, you’d be falling asleep. You always felt blah.
“You just do what you do. You don’t realize how bad you actually feel and how tired you actually are.”
And now when he’s at home, you can bet there will be more family movie nights, although Laurren, London and Ty will have to forgive him if he asks for flicks they’ve already seen.
These days, he promises to stay awake for the entire show.
F Matt Savoie, the No. 1 prospect for the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, announced via Twitter on Monday evening that he plans on attending the U of Denver and playing for the Pioneers, starting with the 2021-22 season.
Savoie and his family applied to Hockey Canada for exceptional status, a move that if granted would have allowed him to play full-time in the WHL as a 15-year-old in 2019-20. Under WHL rules, a 15-year-old is permitted to play only five games before his club team has its season come to an end.
Hockey Canada has yet to announce its decision, although Savoie’s decision might indicate a ruling is imminent.
Earlier this month, dubnetwork.ca, citing what it called “multiple WHL sources,” reported that Savoie had been denied exceptional status. However, dubnetwork.ca has yet to confirm that report with Hockey Canada or the Savoie family, and hasn’t followed up on its story.
Savoie turned 15 on Jan. 1. Had he been born one day earlier, he would have been selected in the 2018 bantam and would be eligible to play full-time in the WHL next season.
From St. Albert, Alta., he played this season with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team, totalling 31 goals and 40 assists in 31 games, and was named the CSSHL’s most valuable player.
Savoie’s brother, Carter, 17, also has committed to Denver. Carter played this season with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders. It could be that the plan is for Matt to play in the AJHL, too, until he joins the Pioneers.
Of course, there is a lot of hockey to be played between then and now, and a whole lot can happen, including the changing of minds.
The WHL will hold its annual draft lottery on Wednesday to determine the order of selection for the draft that is scheduled for Red Deer on May 2. The six non-playoff teams will be in the lottery, with teams allowed to move up only two spots. Thus, the three teams with the poorest regular-season records are in the running for the first pick.
The Swift Current Broncos finished with the poorest record, following by the Winnipeg Ice and Regina Pats. However, the Prince George Cougars hold Swift Current’s pick from an earlier trade, and the Saskatoon Blades own Regina’s selection.
It’s worth noting, too, that two other top prospects announced NCAA commitments earlier this season.
D Mats Lindgren, son of the former NHLer of the same name, won’t turn 15 until Aug. 26 but already has said he will attend the U of Michigan and play for the Wolverines, starting in 2022-23. Lindgren is from North Vancouver, B.C., and had four goals and 22 assists in 27 games with the Burnaby Winter Club’s bantam prep A team.
F Connor Levis, who will turn 15 on Oct 5, also has committed to Michigan for 2022-23. Levis is from Vancouver. This season, he had 24 goals and 38 assists in 26 games withthe St. George’s School bantam prep team.
In this afternoon's tilt, the Titan also allowed 17 shots in the first while totalling 16 all game. It was the 26th time (of 204 regulation periods, 12.75%) this year they allowed more shots in one period than earned in a game. https://t.co/FjuS234mQW
There were, of course, four teams in the 2018 Memorial Cup tournament that took place in Regina. Of those four teams, only one will appear in this season’s playoffs. . . . The QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan won the 2018 Memorial Cup, beating the WHL’s Regina Pats, in the tournament as the host team, in the final. Also there were the WHL-champion Swift Current Broncos and the OHL-champion Hamilton Bulldogs. . . . The Titan concluded its regular season on Saturday, finishing with an 8-54-6 record, including a 1-29-4 mark on home ice. . . . Regina wound up 19-45-4, while Swift Current, at 11-51-6, finished with the WHL’s poorest record. . . . Hamilton, at 29-34-5, finished eighth in the 10-team Eastern Conference and will meet the first-place Ottawa 67’s (49-12-5) in the first round of the OHL’s playoffs. . . . Obviously, the cost of winning a championship in major junior hockey can be a steep price to pay. So can being the host team for the Memorial Cup tournament.
With the playoffs about to start, it will be worth watching the status of F Mark Kastelic, the captain of the Calgary Hitmen.
Here’s Zach Laing of Postmedia, after the Hitmen lost, 3-1, to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings on Sunday:
“With just under four minutes (left in the third period), Kastelic was tracking a loose puck near the Oil Kings bench when Edmonton left-winger Jake Neighbours finished a body-check resulting in Kastelic being slammed face first into the hard plexiglass stanchion.
“Wobbling to the bench, Kastelic had to be initially held up by teammates as he went directly to the locker room with Neighbours heading to the penalty box.”
Kastelic didn’t return to the game, but Laing reported seeing him walking around after the game “looking no worse for wear.”
Kastelic led the Hitmen in goals (47) and was tied with F James Malm for the lead in points, each with 77.
The Hitmen open the first round on Friday against the host Lethbridge Hurricanes.
F Trey Fechko of Eden Prairie, Minn., has committed to Arizona State U and says he will join the Sun Devils for the 2022-23 season. Fechko, who will turn 16 on Oct. 16, played this season for Holy Family Catholic High School, totalling 37 points, including 15 goals, in 24 games. . . . He was selected by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the ninth round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft.
Trevor Weisgerber, a former assistant coach with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, is the new head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. . . . Weisgerber takes over from Ray Wareham, who has left the post after 17 seasons. . . . Weisgerber was an assistant coach with the WHL’s Warriors for two seasons (2010-12). . . . Marc Smith of discovermoosejaw.com has more right here.
"Dad, is that Jack Lambert riding the rollercoaster in full uniform?"