Clayton Pachal, who won two WHL championships with the New Westminster Bruins, has died following a brief illness. Pachal, who died on Feb. 7 in Saskatoon, was 64. . . . Comfortable at centre, left wing or on defence, he was the captain of Bruins teams that won the 1974-75 and 1975-76 WCHL championships and went on to play in the Memorial Cup. . . . Those were the first two of four straight league titles for the big, bad, burly Bruins of head coach Ernie (Punch) McLean. . . . They lost the Memorial Cup final in 1975 and 1976, then won the next two. . . . . . . He split the 1972-73 season between the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers — he was from Yorkton — and the Bruins, then spent the next three seasons with New Westminster. In all, he had 68 goals, 90 assists and 910 penalty minutes in 234 regular-season games. He aded 13 goals, 15 assists and 156 PiM in 48 playoff games. . . . He also played eight Memorial Cup games, scoring four times, adding one assist and serving 18 penalty minutes. . . . Clayton was a cousin to Kent Pachal, whose son Brayden, a defenceman, played four seasons in the WHL and captained the Prince Albert Raiders in 2018-19. He now is with the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights. . . .
The Boston Bruins used the 16th overall selection in the NHL’s 1976 draft to take Clayton Pachal. He went on to play 35 NHL games — 11 with the Bruins and 24 with the Colorado Rockies — recording two goals, three assists and 95 penalty minutes. . . . The Winnipeg Jets selected Pachal in the second round, 17th overall, of the WHL’s 1976 draft. . . . He retired from pro hockey after splitting the 1979-80 season between the Central League’s Cincinnati Stingers and the International League’s Grand Rapids Owls. . . . When he returned home, he kept playing, this time in the Wild Goose Hockey League with the Unity Miners and Wilkie Outlaws. . . .
Pachal’s greatest contribution wasn’t made in an arena or on a sheet of ice. In 1997, he was a living donor for his brother, Evan, who needed a kidney. . . . The brothers were an excellent match and Evan told Taking Note on Tuesday that “I’ve enjoyed good health ever since . . . I am so thankful for his gift.” . . .
The family asks that donations be made to the Kidney Foundation of Canada in lieu of flowers. . . . A complete obituary is right here.
Don Nachbaur is the Tri-City Americans’ new associate coach. Nachbaur will work alongside head coach Kelly Buchberger, who is into his third season with the club. . . . Nachbaur, the WHL’s third-winningest regular-season head coach, spent six seasons (2003-09) as the Americans’ head coach. He also spent six seasons as head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds and seven with the Spokane Chiefs. . . . With 692 victories, he is behind only Don Hay (750), who now is an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, and the retired Ken Hodge (742). . . . After leaving Spokane, Nachbaur, 62, joined the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. He got caught up in a house-cleaning early in his second season (2018-19) in L.A. . . . Nachbaur spent the 2019-20 season as head coach of HKM Zvolen in the Slovakia Tipsport Liga. He started the 2020-21 season as head coach of SC Bern in the Swiss National League A, but left the team five games into the season with a 4-8-0 record.
Don Dietrich, a former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman and longtime supporter of the game in his hometown of Deloraine, has died. #bdnmbhttps://t.co/cm8vnJPAWO
Starting pitcher Frankie Montas wasn’t there when the Oakland A’s reported to camp in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday. He has tested positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms. Under MLB’s protocols, players reporting to camp go through an intake process that includes a five-day home quarantine. A positive test also results in a player having to isolate for at least 10 days. He is allowed to rejoin the team only after undergoing cardiac evaluation and getting clearance from a team physician and from an MLB/MLBPA committee. . . . Pitchers and catchers were to report Wednesday. The mandatory reporting date for other players is Feb. 26. The first exhibition games are scheduled for Feb. 27. Opening day is set for April 1.
The NBA has scheduled its all-star game for March 7 in Atlanta — it was to have been held in Indianapolis but was moved for pandemic-related reasons. . . . Keisha Lance Bottoms is the major of Atlanta. How does she feel about having the game in her city? Here she is in a statement: “Under normal circumstances, we would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star game, but this is not a typical year,” she said in a statement. “I have shared my concerns related to public health and safety with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks. We are in agreement that this is a made-for-TV event only, and people should not travel to Atlanta to party. There will be no NBA sanctioned events open to the public and we strongly encourage promoters, clubs, bars, etc. not to host events in the city related to this game.”
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Tuesday, 9:48 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,395 have died from coronavirus; 836,594 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Wednesday, 10:01 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,439 have died from coronavirus; 839,155 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Tuesday, 9:48 p.m. PT — United States: 487,927 people have died. . . . 27,753,824 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Wednesday, 10:01 p.m. PT — United States: 490,447 have died from coronavirus . . . 27,825,043 have tested positive.
The Globe and Mail — Global COVID-19 cases have dropped by half, and experts are looking for explanations.
The Globe and Mail — Alberta pastor accused of breaking COVID-19 health rules held in custody.
The Tri-City News — COVID-19 outbreak at Burnaby’s biggest daycare sees 24 cases.
CBC News — B.C. records 427 new COVID-19 cases and 3 more deaths. There are 232 people in hospital with the disease, 63 of whom are in intensive care.
CBC News — Alberta is reporting 277 new COVID-19 cases, 7 more deaths. Province has a case positivity rate of 3.9%.
CBC News — Manitoba is reporting 76 new COVID-19 cases, below the province’s 7-day average of 84. Health authorities are also reporting 1 additional death.
CBC News — Saskatchewan is reporting 124 new COVID-19 cases, well below the province’s 7-day average of 159. Health authorities also say there have been 5 additional deaths.
CBC News — New Brunswick is reporting 3 new COVID-19 cases and 15 recoveries. Province has had 1,407 total cases, 1,264 recoveries and 24 deaths. . . . N.B.’s top doctor urges residents to stay in own zone over March Break.
CBC News — Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region call for 2-week lockdown extension due to COVID-19 variant spread. Toronto’s top doctor says there are 56 confirmed cases while 283 others have screened positive; foresees 3rd wave ‘as worse as anything we’ve seen.’
The NHL has had to postpone 35 games because of COVID-19, seven teams have had to pause activities and there have been 124 players on the protocol list. It all has left some people wondering if the coronavirus is being transmitted during games. . . . Chris Bumbaca of USA TODAY has a lot more on this story right here.
From the NBA on Wednesday: “Of the 454 players tested for COVID-19 since Feb. 10, five new players have returned confirmed positive tests. Anyone who has returned a confirmed positive test, or has been identified as having been in close contact to an infected person, is isolated or quarantined until they are cleared under the rules established by the NBA and the Players Association in accordance with CDC guidance.”
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
F Matt Savoie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice has joined the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. Savoie, 16, was denied exceptional status by Hockey Canada prior to the 2019-20 season, something that would have allowed him play full-time with the Ice. As it was, the Ice still got him into 22 games — he had seven assists. . . . The Ice selected him with the first overall pick of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. . . . This season, he had three goals and three assists in four games with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders. . . . From a Fighting Saints news release: “Savoie is expected to join the Saints shortly. The team is in action again on Friday and Saturday in Youngstown as they take on the Phantoms.” . . . Savoie will be eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, Savoie, who is from St. Albert, Alta., was in training camp with Dubuque, as was his older brother, Carter, who now is a freshman at Denver U. In fact, Carter was named the NCHC’s rookie of the month for December after putting up 12 points, including seven goals, in 11 games. . . . Dubuque is 5-11-0 and in fifth place in the six-team Eastern Conference. . . .
Interestingly, F Cole Sillinger of the Medicine Hat Tigers had made plans to join the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede to at least start their season. However, it didn’t work out. Here’s what Sillinger told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post:
“I’m a dual citizen so that was a decision I had made to go down there in early October. Long story short, my transfer from Hockey Canada to USA Hockey wasn’t accepted. I couldn’t play any games so I had to come home. I was down there for about 2 ½ weeks just skating and practising, which was still very good. I was able to get into a routine and got to be a part of an actual team again.”
Sillinger, the son of former WHL/NHL F Mike Sillinger, had 53 points, including 22 goals, in 48 games with Medicine Hat last season. He is eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft.
Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reported that F Conor Geekie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 bantam draft, “is considering offers from USHL and NAHL teams.” . . . Sawatzky quoted Craig Geekie, a former WHLer and Conor’s father: “I’m not going to say that missing a year is going to hurt him but it will, to me, just set him back in a minor way. (It will help) if he can just play, even if it’s for two or three months.”
The USHL’s Lincoln Stars have four players off the Portland Winterhawks’ roster on their list. However, Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ GM and head coach, has told Joshua Critzer that the WHL hasn’t released any of the four players and that won’t happen unless the WHL season is cancelled.
Meanwhile, according to a tweet from the Tri-City Americans, D Andrej Golian “has arrived after competing with Slovakia” at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
At the same time, Seattle-based hockey writer Andy Eide tweeted that F Simon Kubicek of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who played for Czech Republic at the WJC, has headed home “for the time being.” . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported that D Marko Stacha, who played for Slovakia at the WJC, “is in Vancouver and the Giants say the plan is for him to stay.” . . . And according to Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, D Inaki Baragano, who played for Switzerland at the WJC, is in Kamloops in anticipation of playing for the Blazers.
With the three major junior leagues not operating at the moment, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet had an interesting item in his first 31 Thoughts posting of 2021:
“The NHL’s biggest priority right now is starting the season, but, at some point, teams are wondering if there will be any changes to the draft. Selecting 18-year-olds is already a crapshoot. Now it’s going to be even harder with so few opportunities to scout them. Hopefully, the CHL finds a way (more for the kids’ sake than anything), but, if not, I wonder if regional combines featuring scrimmages are created a few months down the road to give everyone an opportunity to see and be seen.” . . . The entire column is right here.
IIHF Rene Fasel says it is still the goal to have a U18 Mens World Championship in April in Michigan. Hockey Canada says they have started to discuss with USA Hockey on how the bubble process was implemented at the World Junior.
Normally, 18 and 19-year-olds like Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary and Dustin Wolf only have two options — NHL or CHL. But Brad Treliving confirms that until QMJHL/WHL starts up, Flames will be able to assign them to the AHL. The GM notes they will have a place for everyone to play.
Three of the AHL’s 31 teams have opted out of playing this season, which the league hopes to get started on Feb. 5. The Charlotte Checkers, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) won’t participate in a new season. . . . John Greenberg, the Admirals’ president, said: “Right now, we’d be able to have 10 fans at the game watching our teams play, and that’s really no way to run a business.” . . . And here’s Michael Kahn, the Checkers’ owner: “There are several travel, safety and player supply challenges to consider. Those, coupled with the increasing number of new (COVID-19) cases in our area, make it very unlikely that we will be able to host fans at our games in the near future.” . . . As things now stand, the AHL will operate with five divisions of three, four, six, seven and eight teams. The Canadian Division will feature the Belleville Senators, Laval Rocket, Manitoba Moose and Toronto Marlies.
Andrew Doty, an assistant coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, has left to join the coaching staff of the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Doty, 30, was the Hurricanes’ video coach and will fill that same role with the Silver Knights. He had been with the Hurricanes, in one role or another, since the start of the 2014-15 season. In Henderson, Doty will be working with two former WHL coaches — Manny Viveiros is the Silver Knights’ head coach, while Jamie Heward is an assistant coach.
Rob Flockhart, a former WHL player who went on to play 55 NHL games, died on Saturday of an apparent heart attack. He was 64. . . . A native of Sicamous, B.C., he spent three seasons (1973-76) with the Kamloops Chiefs. In his third season, he totalled 51 goals and 47 assists in 72 games. . . . He played 55 NHL games over five seasons, split between the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota North Stars. He retired after playing two games with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks and 14 with that league’s Springfield Indians in 1984-85. . . . The Canucks selected him in the third round of the NHL’s 1976 draft. He also was selected by the Cleveland Crusaders in the sixth round of the WHA’s 1976 draft. . . . Rob was the older brother, by four years, of former NHLer Ron Flockhart.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: Quebec gov’t mulling harsher restrictions, including a curfew and extending school closures, amid soaring COVID-19 cases.
Public Health Agency of Canada, Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT: Canada has 78,849 active cases, with 523,564 recoveries. There have been 16,233 deaths.
CNN, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. PT: 356,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Tuesday, 5:20 p.m. PT: 357,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
BC Hockey announced Tuesday that it has cancelled the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup and 2021 Coy Cup events. . . . The Cyclone Taylor Cup is the junior B provincial championship that features three league champions and a host team. . . . The Coy Cup is the province’s senior men’s AA championship. . . . There is a news release right here. . . .
The Cleveland Browns will be without three coaches, including head coach Kevin Stefanski, and at least two players when they face the host Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game on Sunday. . . . Pro Bowl G Joel Bitonio and WR KhaDarel Hodge tested positive, as did defensive backs coach Jeff Howard and tight ends coach Drew Petzing. . . . It meant that the Brown were forced to shut down their facility on Tuesday for the fifth time in 10 days. . . . Cleveland was without six starters and three coaches due to COVID-19 protocols when it beat the Steelers on Sunday.
There are reports that the Ohio State Buckeyes football team is dealing with COVID-19 issues but as of Tuesday evening it didn’t appear that the NCAA championship game was in jeopardy. The Buckeyes are to meet the Alabama Crimson Tide in Miami on Monday. . . .
The 2021 Canadian National Taekwon-Do championships have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Vernon, B.C., April 24 and 25. . . .
Bentley U, which is located in Waltham, Mass., has paused its hockey program because of positive tests within the program. All team activities have been halted until further notice. . . . Bentley plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Of the sporting events I have watched on TV over the past few months, none missed fans as much as the IIHF’s World Junior Championship. Not having flag-waving, hyped-up fans in attendance really cooled off that event. . . . I didn’t watch a lot of the WJC, but Tuesday night’s championship game was a terrific advertisement for the best that hockey has to offer. . . . If you missed it, there are rumours that the NBA will offer up a couple of expansion franchises and use the fees to help overcome losses caused by the pandemic. The whispers have Louisville and Seattle in line, with the price tag somewhere around US$2.5 billion per franchise.
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, addressed some media folks in a virtual gathering on Oct. 15. When the topic of WHL players moving to junior A during the shutdown arose, Trevor Redden of panow.com reported via Twitter that Robison said that if they were affiliated last (season), they’re eligible to play now, and that general managers were to discuss the subject this week.
That meeting apparently took place at some point this week, because the WHL issued a statement late Friday afternoon, stating that it “has granted temporary transfers for WHL roster players to continue their development by playing competitive hockey at the junior A, junior B and under-18 levels . . . through mid-December.”
That something had happened became apparent on Thursday night when the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers announced that they had signed Everett D Gianni Fairbrother, 20.
Then, on Friday morning, the Estevan Bruins revealed there was an agreement between the SJHL and WHL that will allow major junior players to play in the junior A league until Dec. 20. The Bruins did that as they announced the signing of F Cole Fonstad of the Everett Silvertips. Fonstad, 20, is from Estevan.
Everett also has loaned D Dylan Anderson, 18, to the BCHL’s Cowichan Capitals, F Jackson Berezowski, 18, to the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers, and F Ethan Regnier, 20, to the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs.
A news release from the Silvertips indicated that players are allowed “full participation in . . . practices, workout activities and games, until a loan expiration of Dec. 20. . . .”
The WHL has said it will start its next regular season on Jan. 8, with players reporting to teams shortly after Christmas.
According to Ryan Flaherty of Global Saskatoon, Blades D Rhett Rhinehart, who turns 19 next month, is with the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers. Flaherty added that G Nolan Maier, 19, “will likely play for Yorkton, although that has not been confirmed yet.”
As well, Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reported F Evan Herman, 18, of the Winnipeg Ice has joined the MJHL’s OCN Blizzard, while Connor Roulette, 17, of the Seattle Thunderbirds is with the MJHL’s Selkirk Steelers.
Byron Hackett of the Red Deer Advocate tweeted that Rebels F Jaxsen Wiebe, 18, is to play for the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks.
The Tri-City Americans have loaned F Parker Bell to the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Bell, 17, is from Campbell River.
Meanwhile, Regan Bartel, the long-time radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, tweeted that the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors have run out of goaltenders — three of them are injured — so have added veteran goaltenders Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius, both 19, from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets at least for this weekend.
Questions . . . yes, there are questions about the WHL’s agreement with junior A and junior B leagues about the loaning of players.
For starters, what happens to the transferred players if a WHL regular season doesn’t get started?
Also, some of these leagues have moved to a pay-for-play model. So who is paying for the WHL players to play in these other leagues?
Braden Malsbury, the radio voice of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves via MBC Radio, also has some thoughts in the following tweets:
Certain teams will now have a significant advantage because they have several legit WHL players born in their region. This creates an extremely uneven playing field. (2/4)
Hearing some Ontario Hockey League teams are telling players they don’t expect to open training camps until mid-January at the earliest. Even that’s far from a certainty. OHL has publicly said it hopes to start season Dec. 1.
Hartley Miller, the GOAT at 94.3 The GOAT and the analyst on broadcasts of Prince George Cougars home games, offered up this today:
“Leagues like the BCHL and WHL insist they will play a season even if fans are not allowed to their games.
“The financial commitment from those owners should be applauded, but the question remains how safe is it to play?
“There does not appear to be a clear answer but regardless of whether it is a top-notch junior player or one competing at the rec level, the athlete needs to fully understand there is a health risk, even though we remain in the dark how much risk that is.”
That is from his latest Hartley’s Hart Attack, headlined ‘The risk of competition.’ . . . It’s all right here. . . . And if you aren’t a daily reader, you should be.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
NHL teams have been told they will not be allowed to scout live at the upcoming World Juniors similar to the bubble the NHL had in Edmonton.
Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Among the many thousands who just don’t get the mask thing, there appear to be three options: (1) Wear it under the nose. Perfected by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on Sunday Night Football. Gives those droplets a fighting chance. (2) Down around the chin. Extremely fashionable. Shows you might have cared at daybreak. (3) None at all. Because, you know, what the hell, it’s a hassle.” . . .
Hearing rumblings that some NE prep schools are looking at going rogue & playing outside their leagues if leagues pull plug (as Founders League has already done). Also hearing talk of top midget programs — think Mid-Fairfield, Jr. Eagles, Whalers — extending seasons. Stay tuned
The Founders League, which comprises 11 prep schools, announced Friday that it has cancelled all interscholastic competition for the 2020-21 season. It includes 10 Connecticut schools and one from eastern New York. . . .
The KHL has postponed Jokerit’s next two games, which were scheduled for Monday and Wednesday, after four positive tests within the organization. Jokerit underwent testing after returning from its latest road trip. . . . Jokerit also had games postponed early in September because of positive tests. . . .
a source close to slava kozlov's family tells me he is out of the hospital and did have a difficult case of COVID-19.#RedWings@georgemalik
Two of U.S. college football’s bowl games are gone, at least for 2020. The Holiday Bowl was to have been held in San Diego, while the Fenway Bowl, which was to have been played for the first time, was scheduled for, yes, Fenway Park in Boston. . . .
Scotty Walden, the interim head coach at Southern Miss, tested positive earlier this week. He has been the head coach since Jay Hopson left after the season’s first game. . . . The Golden Eagles, who haven’t played since Oct. 3, are scheduled to play Liberty today (Saturday). Their game on Oct. 17 against UTEP wasn’t played because they were going through an outbreak. . . .
The U of Toledo has put its men’s basketball team on hold for two weeks because six players and head coach Tod Kowalczyk tested positive. . . . Marquette’s men’s and women’s basketball teams also have been shut down for two weeks after each experienced one positive test.
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JUST NOTES: Some European teams are using the four-team Karjala Cup as a tuneup for the 2021 World Junior Championship that opens in an Edmonton bubble on Dec. 25. Former NHLer Igor Larionov is coaching the Russian team, with Valeri Bragin, normally the team’s head coach, having recently recovered from COVID-19. Also in the Karjala Cup are teams from Czech Republic and Sweden. The tournament, in Helsinki, runs from Nov. 5-8. . . . Former WHL D Connor Hobbs (Medicine Hat, Regina, 2013-17) has retired from pro hockey after playing three seasons with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Hobbs is back at home in Saskatoon and taking online courses as the U of Saskatchewan. Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has that story right here.
The SJHL revealed Friday night that it has been given the OK for its teams to play games “effective immediately.” Teams will be permitted to have a maximum of 150 fans at games, all of whom must wear masks. The league released a 24-game exhibition schedule Saturday night, with the first game scheduled for Thursday when the La Ronge Ice Wolves are to visit the Flin Flon Bombers. The two teams will meet four times in 10 days. Exhibition games will be played through Nov. 1.
With the Bombers being included, it tells us that the SJHL has received an exemption from government and health officials for the Bombers to travel in from Manitoba and for Saskatchewan teams to go into Manitoba. This isn’t a surprise, what with Flin Flon located pretty much atop the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.
But remember that the Saskatchewan government has told curlers they aren’t to travel outside the province for games, nor are curlers from other provinces to travel into Saskatchewan for competition.
The WHL, which is planning on opening its regular season on Jan. 8, wants to have its five Saskatchewan teams play in a division with the two Manitoba teams — the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice. But the WHL needs clearance for interprovincial play in order for that to happen.
Benny Walchuk of GX94 in Yorkton talked with Bill Chow, the SJHL president, and that interview is right here.
The BCHL has almost all of its teams playing exhibition games at the moment as they prepare to open the regular season on Dec. 1. The exception is the Wenatchee, Wash., Wild, which isn’t involved because of U.S.-Canada border restrictions. . . . Instead, the Wild has scheduled a series of six scrimmages in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho about a three-hour drive from Wenatchee. . . . According to the Wild, the scrimmages will include “10-16 Western Hockey League players joining the Wild camp on a limited basis to participate in the scrimmages.” . . . Those scrimmages are scheduled for Oct. 22, 12:15 p.m.; Oct. 23, 7:15 p.m.; Nov. 6 and 7, and Nov. 13 and 14. Times for the latter four are TBA.
Tampa Bay Rays, 28th in MLB payroll, beat No. 1 (Yanks) and now No. 3 (Astros) in payroll to reach World Series. If they should meet & beat Dodgers in WS, they'd knock off No. 1-2-3 in salary. Just sayin', not predicting. Remarkable and worth all the praise they can be given!
Nick Saban, the head coach of the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, tested positive earlier in the week. But Saban, 68, turned in three negatives before Saturday so was on the sideline on Saturday night in a 41-24 road victory against No. 3 Georgia. Yes, that was Saban with his mask down around his chin getting in the face of an on-field official.
On Friday, Kurt Streeter of The New York Times wrote, in part:
This is, of course, an unpredictable disease.Saban is 68 years old, a particularly vulnerable age for this virus. But that does not seem to matter to major college football, which keeps twisting itself into knots, strainingto rationalize playing games amid a pandemic that has led to at least 217,000 deaths in the United States — with no end in sight.
Even with infection hitting its most famous coach, the mind-set of the college game’s most vigorous enablers has not altered. They are bent on moving forward.
“He knows the risks,” they say. “Let’s keep going.”
Here’s Brad Dickson, a humorist who used to be a columnist with the Omaha World-Herald: “The mayor and county health director held a press conference where they said go ahead with your Halloween parties and trick or treat ‘just be smart about it.’ At what point do people stop getting the benefit of the doubt about being smart on Covid?”
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has scheduled its regular season to open on Dec. 1 with all eight of its teams in a bubble in Omaha, Neb. The 26-game season will be split into two parts, with each team playing 10 games in the first three weeks of December in Omaha. . . . In the New Year, each team will play 16 games — eight home and eight away. . . . The NCHC comprises Colorado Springs, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. . . . From a news release: “Overall medical support and COVID-19 testing for all participating student-athletes, staff and officials in the Pod will be conducted through the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), located in Omaha. Medical protocols and testing strategies for the entire season are currently being developed with top medical professionals from UNMC and the Global Center for Health Security.” . . . That news release is right here. . . .
The 11-team Atlantic Hockey Association is to open its regular season on Nov. 1. Each team will play 24 games and will have the ability to add four games. . . . From the Colonial Sports Network: “In an attempt to limit exposure of travel during the season, the AHA has divided 10 teams into eastern and western pods, with five teams in each geographical pod and Air Force standing alone on the outside looking in. The eastern pod consists of AIC, Army, Holy Cross, Bentley and Sacred Heart. Robert Morris finds itself in the western pod, joined by Canisius, Mercyhurst, RIT and Niagara.” That leaves Air Force to bounce back and forth between pods. . . .
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times checks in: “Attention, Dan Mullen (the Florida football coach who wanted to ‘see 90,000 (fans) in The Swamp’ for the LSU game — only to have to postpone it because so many of his players tested positive for COVID-19): Your Karma of the Year Award awaits you down at the front desk. A gentle reminder: Just be sure when you come to pick it up you’re wearing a mask.” . . . More from Ms. Karma: Mullen announced on Saturday that he also has tested positive. . . .
Oulun Kärpät, a team in the Finnish Liiga, has been quarantined until Oct. 24 after one of its players tested positive. The test came back on Friday night. At least three games will have to be rescheduled. . . .
At least one ringette and two minor hockey organizations in Ottawa have suspended play until current restrictions are lifted. The Nepean Minor Hockey Association, West End Hockey League and the City of Ottawa Ringette Association have shut down. . . . At the time they suspended operations, 10 skaters, including coaches, were allowed on the ice at any one time, with only practices without spectators permitted. All dressing rooms are closed so players had to arrive with their gear on. . . . Hockey Eastern Ontario, which oversees the region’s amateur hockey, has had an undisclosed number of positive tests show up in players and volunteers. In a statement, Ottawa Public Health said, according to CBC, that recent contract tracing investigations have “identified confirmed transmissions and outbreaks between staff and players.” . . . The CBC piece is right here. . . .
Things have reached the point in Winnipeg where officials are talking about shutting down arenas if hockey fans and players don’t do a better job of following public health orders. “The warning comes as the city battles the worst surge of COVID-19 cases in the province since the beginning of the pandemic,” writes Sara Petz of CBC, “prompting Mayor Brian Bowman to urge people to think of others, and wear a face mask.” . . . At one point in a Friday news conference, Mayor Bowman said: “Wear a friggin’ mask.” . . . That story is right here.
Remembering Jessie Irene Noblitt/ Irene Ryan best known as Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies on the 118th anniversary of her birth pic.twitter.com/nNF24XXOOB
Happy Saturday, friends! ♻️💚 • If you’re interested in speaking to a living kidney donor or transplant recipient about their experience or sharing your own, we would love to hear from you. • email@example.com 1 (833) 274-3740#organdonation#kidneytransplantpic.twitter.com/kkMyr3GKIg
JUST NOTES: In the past few days, the telephone scammers have been on the line from California, Idaho, Maine, Montana and New Jersey? Or might it be Agent Orange trying to get my vote? . . . He’s got endorsements from the Taliban and Kirstie Alley so how can anyone be undecided? . . . Wondering how many games your favourite WHL team might play in the 2021 season? Andy Beesley, the Prince George Cougars’ vice-president of business, told Hartley Miller of mypgnow.com and the GOAT 94.3: “As a baseline, I would expect to have 30-plus games, probably 34 games is a very minimum amount, maybe up to 50, but those details are yet to be determined.” . . . Bob Tory, the GM of the Tri-City Americans, told Myck Miller of KEPR-TV that “all our players have had their medicals done . . . we’ve been fortunate. We haven’t had one player test positive.” Tory said that while the Americans would love to have a full house for their opener in January, he isn’t counting on it. “No . . . we’re hoping that that’s the case,” he said. “But we have to prepare for the fact that we might have to start the season with no fans and then hopefully . . . if that’s successful they allow 25 per cent then 50 and then maybe full attendance.”
Here is why we love Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon. His Monday posting contained a considerable amount of writing about the chances of the pro leagues and/or college football resuming/starting their seasons. As he pointed out, it’s awfully hard to practise physical distancing in a sporting facility that contains 106,572 fans.
He finished with this:
“Baseball has had some experience dealing with crowds where social distancing can be maintained:
“Spread out the attendees at a typical Miami Marlins home game and social distancing is not a challenge.
“Look at the fans sitting behind home plate in Yankee Stadium. The cost of those seats has effected social distancing by economic measures and not medical ones.”
BTW, here’s Jack’s Thought of the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “Our public men are speaking every day on something, but they ain’t saying anything.”
The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames announced cutbacks on Monday. . . . Edmonton has reduced its staff by 139 employees with all others taking a “compensation rollback,” which is fancy-speak for a pay cut. . . . As well, senior hockey and business executives are taking a 50-100 per cent cut. . . . The Flames cut their workforce by 150 employees, or 50 per cent, hitting them with a 60-day temporary layoff. The rest of the staff will see 10-25 per cent cuts in pay. . . .
The CFL has postponed the start of training camps that were to begin in May. In some instances, rookie camps were to start on May 11 and main camps on May 17. . . . The B.C. Lions were to train in Kamloops from May 13 through June 3. . . . The CFL’s regular season is scheduled to begin on June 11, but that obviously is in doubt. . . . There already is speculation out there about whether the CFL will be able to get in a 12- or even an eight-game regular-season schedule. . . .
Farhan Lalji of TSN tweeted that sources have told him everyone in the Calgary Stampeders “organization, including all football ops/coaches, have been told by ownership that they will be taking pay cuts. Range is 10-25 per cent and will be re-evaluated in three months.” . . . That would take them to July 1. . . .
Sky Sports reported that German Tennis Federation vice-president Dirk Hordoff told it that Wimbledon organizers will announce the cancellation of the tournament this week. The tournament’s scheduled dates are July 29 through July 12. . . . While the French Open has been postponed from May until late September, Wimbledon would be cancelled because it has just two covered courts and it isn’t possible to play on the grass courts that late in the season. . . . Mark Masters of TSN has more on the Wimbledon situation right here with an interesting interview with Grant Cantin of Stony Plain, Alta., who was on the grounds crew for 17 years. . . .
Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have rescheduled the Summer Games and now they are to open on July 23, 2021, and run through Aug. 8. They had been scheduled to open on July 24, 2020, and go through Aug. 9. . . . The Paralympics now are scheduled to run from Aug. 24 through Sept. 5, 2021. . . .
In golf, the Irish Open, set for May 28-31, has been postponed, meaning the next scheduled European Tour men’s event is the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, June 4-7. . . .
The seven-team Western Women’s Canadian Football League has cancelled its 2020 season, which would have been No. 10. The league’s teams: Calgary Rage, Edmonton Storm, Lethbridge Steel, Manitoba Fearless, Regina Riot, Saskatoon Valkyries and the Winnipeg Wolfpack. . . .
The 2020 Saskatchewan Marathon has been cancelled. It was to have been held in Saskatoon on May 31. . . .
The International Boxing Hall of Fame has cancelled its 2020 Hall of Fame weekend. . . . What should have been this year’s inductees will be part of the celebrations in 2021. . . . The Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Canastota, N.Y. The big weekend had been scheduled for June 11-14. . . . From wktv.com: “This class makes history, featuring the first enshrined females in the Hall of Fame’s 31 years of existence. The women’s Trailblazer category gains Barbara Buttrick, while the Modern category adds ‘The Coal Miner’s Daughter’ Christy Martin, and ‘The Dutch Destroyer’ Lucia Rijker. Other inducted boxers include lightweight champion Frank Erne in the Old Timer category, and Paddy Ryan to the Pioneer category.”
While there have been lots of postponements and cancellations, the NFL is going ahead with its annual draft. . . . That has irked Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle, who points out that a lot of people have learned a lot over the last while, “everyone except, apparently, Roger Goodell.”
“Commissioner Tone Deaf now has turned into Dictator Obtuse. In announcing that the NFL draft would take place as planned April 23-25, Goodell also sent a memo warning teams not to criticize his decision.
“The memo, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, said in part ‘public discussion of issues relating to the Draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action.’
“We know how hard the hammer can fall in the NFL. Just ask old friend Colin Kaepernick.
“There’s no place for personal opinion or free speech in the No Freedoms League.”
The Tri-City Americans announced the departure of associate coach Brian Pellerin in a terse two-sentence news release on Monday afternoon. . . . Pellerin, the pride of Hinton, Alta., which is just west of Old Drinnan Town, spent six seasons with the Americans, one as assistant coach and the last five as associate. . . . The 50-year-old Pellerin played four seasons (1987-91) with the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . He also worked four seasons (2004-08) as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks.
The Philadelphia Hockey Club has signed Rylan Ferster as one of its head coaches for 2020-21. Ferster will be involved with the Tier-2 team in the National Collegiate Development Conference. . . . Ferster is a veteran of the junior A ranks, especially in the BCHL where he recently spent seven seasons with the Westside/West Kelowna Warriors, guiding them to a national championship in 2015-16. . . . In December, the PHC hired Troy Mick, another former BCHL coach, as the general manager of the Tier-2 program and the head coach of the U-16 teams. . . .
The BCHL’s reigning coach of the year no longer is with the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express. . . . Jason Fortier had signed a three-year contract in November 2017 when he replaced Barry Wolff. . . . Veteran BCHL observer Brian Wiebe (@Brian_Wiebe) first tweeted the news on Monday, adding later in the day that “Express assistant coaches Jamie Jackson and Sam Waterfield are no longer with the team either. Jackson was brought on board in November 2017, while Waterfield was with Coquitlam since June 2019.”
Sad to hear of the passing of the ‘Toy Cannon’, Jimmy Wynn, on March 26th. Wynn wasn’t a big man, but hit some prodigious homeruns in his career. He played 11 seasons in Houston, then went to LA for the 1974 season and helped lead them to a NL championship having an amazing year pic.twitter.com/SDIdwPnv6o
The 2020 Kidney Walk Kamloops is scheduled for Sept. 20 at McDonald Park. My wife, Dorothy, will be three days away from the seventh anniversary of her kidney transplant, as she takes part for a seventh straight year. . . . BTW, she is one of the event’s organizers, and she also is a co-founder of the Kamloops Kidney Support Group. . . . She would never tell you this, but I will — she has been the biggest individual fund-raiser in Kamloops for each of the past six years. . . . If you would like to support her in the 2020 Kidney Walk, you are able to do so right here.
Carson Moore is a huge fan of the Tri-City Americans. He also is a six-year-old who was born with one kidney. According to his mother, Kelli, doctors feel that Carson could need dialysis by the time he reaches puberty and, at some point, he will need a transplant. . . . For now, though, he has a new friend in Talyn Boyko, the Americans’ sophomore goaltender. . . . Their relationship began before Boyko was aware of Carson’s health issues, with the player handing over an autographed stick at one point. Later, Boyko got a note from Kelli telling him about Carson’s situation and just how much the gesture meant to the Moore family. . . . “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in tears. It was really special for me to read that,” Boyko told sportscaster Cooper Perkins, who has done up a terrific piece on the relationship that has grown between Moore and Boyko. . . . Check it out right here.
David Ayres was in Calgary on Friday, along with Toby Boulet, as the promotional buildup began for the second annual Green Shirt Day on April 7. This all is in honour of Toby’s son, Logan, who was a victim of the bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos almost two years ago. . . . Ayres, of course, was the EBUG who played some goal for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 22 in a 6-3 victory over the host Toronto Maple Leafs. Ayres had a kidney transplant in 2004, with his mother serving as his donor. . . . Logan Boulet had registered as an organ donor prior to losing his life in the bus crash; his organs went to eight different people. . . . Jason Herring of the Calgary Herald has more right here.
Later Friday, David Ayres’ tour took him to Saskatoon where he did some organ donor promotion at the Blades’ game that evening and was at the Saskatoon Rush’s lacrosse game on Saturday night. . . . Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, one of Canada’s top wordsmiths, caught up with Ayres and wrote this piece right here.
Join TBZ in helping someone in need.
Dan Johnston is in need of a donor. Dan is from Peterborough, ON, he is the brother of TBZ President Rick Johnston and is in need of a liver.
As of Saturday evening, Const. Mike Seel of the Regina Police Service Traffic Unit, who goes by the nickname Hawkeye, had written 1,097 cell-phone related tickets in 2019 and, he told me via Twitter, “over 1,500 total tickets for the year.” Think about those numbers for a moment. . . . What’s with the nickname? According to a story by Michaela Solomon of CTV News Regina, it was “given to him by the former face of RPS traffic, Const. Curtis Warnar, for his ability to catch drivers on their cell phones.” . . . Meanwhile, more than 2,000 speeding tickets were handed out to drivers in Regina school zones in the month of September, with the speed limit having been dropped from 40 km/h to 30. . . . “It is ridiculously high,” Sgt. Rob Collins of the RPS’s Traffic Safety Unit told Lynn Giesbrecht of the Regina Leader-Post. “In all reality, most of the tickets that I’ve seen issued would’ve been a ticket even if it was still 40, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do.” . . . It seems the drivers of Regina have a lot of work to do, too.
If you are a follower of the WHL, there was good news on Friday when Corey Graham revealed via Twitter that “I’m back calling Edmonton Oil Kings home games on TSN 1260.” . . . Graham, who continues his recovery from some major health issues, will handle home games, with Andrew Peard providing analysis. Peard will call the play of all road games. . . . Graham added that he is “really excited to get back in the booth!” . . . Corey, we’re all excited for you. Welcome back!
“Jim (Mattress Mack) McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston, placed a $3.5-million bet on the Astros to win the World Series,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “And, doubling down, he rolled out his latest mattress, the George Springer.”
Perry, again: “Scientists at the National Defense Medical College in Japan say they’ve created artificial blood that works better than the real stuff.Didn’t pro rasslers already do that?”
Is the WHL thumbing its nose at Hockey Canada, while at the same time inviting 15-year-olds to come to its teams and play at least 30 games? . . . According to a story by Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press, the WHL has granted an exemption to the Winnipeg Ice so that F Matt Savoie, 15, can play 34 games this season. Ordinarily, 15-year-olds are allowed to play five games before their club team’s season ends, at which time they may join the WHL team on a full-time basis. . . . Prior to this season, Hockey Canada rejected the Savoie family’s application for exceptional status. . . . Savoie played his third WHL game of this season on Friday night; he wasn’t in the lineup on Saturday.
Word is the Cranbrook Bucks will join the BCHL for the 2020-21 season.
The Winnipeg Ice played two home games, its second and third of this season, last weekend. The announced attendances were 1,373 (7-0 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings) and 1,327 (4-0 loss to the Vancouver Giants). . . . In its home-opener, the Ice announced 1,621 for a 4-2 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . If you were wondering, the Kootenay Ice announced crowds of 2,862, 2,375 and 2,287 for its first three home games last season. . . . You remember the Kootenay team, don’t you? It played out of Cranbrook.
Speaking of Cranbrook, a group headed by former WHL G Nathan Lieuwen announced Tuesday that it will bring the junior A BCHL to the city next season when the Bucks begin operation. . . . In reading the story by Trevor Crawley of the Cranbrook Townsman, I was struck by this: “The city was left reeling after a messy break-up with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice last January. After 21 years in Cranbrook, new ownership relocated the team to Winnipeg and still (has) an outsanding lease agreement valid until 2023. (Mayor Lee) Pratt confirmed the city remains in negotiations with the Ice over the agreement.” . . . The WHL and the Ice announced on Jan. 29 that the franchise was relocating to Winnipeg. Of course, observers had realized long before then that the Ice owners were going through the motions and that they were done with Cranbrook. . . . Here we are, almost nine months later, and the lease still hasn’t been settled. You are free to wonder if anyone in the WHL is embarrassed by any of this.
Hey, Edmonton, that 100 km/h speed limit on Anthony Henday Drive . . . that’s not the speed limit; it’s a guideline. Right?
After driving more than 4,000 km through the Prairies and back, I can tell you that the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding contains far more election signage than any other one we passed through. . . . Yes, it’s all a blight on the scenery.
After the Chicago Cubs dumped manager Joe Maddon, Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot pointed out just what a horrid job Maddon had done: “In five seasons under Maddon, Chicago won 58 percent of its games, reached the playoffs four times and celebrated a long-awaited World Series victory. What a failure he was.”
A note from Bob Tory, the general manager of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, to accompany a couple of photos that he put on his Facebook page: “That time of year. Two deer down. One car down.” . . . Thankfully, Tory wasn’t injured in the collision. Word is that Trader Bob, as he once was known, did put brothers John and Jim Deer on the trade wire, though. No word yet on whether he found any takers.
Saw this in a column by Steve Simmons of Postmedia: “If Guy Carbonneau is going to the Hockey Hall of Fame, why not Dale Hunter? And if you want to go back a few years, why not 86-year-old Claude Provost, who won more and scored more playing a defensive role with the great Montreal Canadiens teams back when the Canadiens were great.” . . . I was absolutely flabbergasted to realize that Provost isn’t an honoured member of the Hall. Seriously. Had there been a Frank J. Selke Trophy back in the day, Provost would have owned it.
Headline from @SportsPickle: Have to think we could be a game or two away from Odell Beckham demanding a trade to the Giants.
If you aren’t a fan of the analytics that are sweeping through the world of sports, you just might be a fan of Bill Belichick. Asked the other day how much of a role analytics play in his game-planning, the New England Patriots head coach replied: “Less than zero.”
If you are under a certain age, let me assure you this apple pie was served at the surface temperature of the planet Mercury. pic.twitter.com/lxJyXzl2Ay
There’s a lot of good out there in this world.. we just got to do a better job showcasing it!! Both the kids in the video.. if you have Twitter reach out and you got tickets on me when the @SFGiants come to town ✌🏽 https://t.co/lTD98nQ7F9
F Radel Fazleyev (Calgary, 2013-16) has been traded by Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL) to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (Russia, KHL) for the KHL rights to Mikko Rantanen. Last season, with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL), Fazleyev had two assists in 15 games. In 16 games with Bars Kazan (Russia, Vysshaya Liga), he had two goals and five assists.
The Brandon Wheat Kings have signed Dave Lowry as their new head coach. He replaces David Anning, whose contract wasn’t renewed after three seasons. . . . No terms of Lowry’s contract with the Wheat Kings were released. . . . Lowry, 54, spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. He wasn’t retained when Todd McLellan took over as the Kings’ head coach. . . . Before that, Lowry was the head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Royals for five seasons (2012-17), going 209-124-27. . . . After his playing career ended — he split 1,084 regular-season NHL games with five teams — he started his coaching career with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. He was an assistant coach for two seasons (2005-07), the associate coach for one and the head coach for one. He then worked for three seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Calgary Flames, before signing with Victoria. . . . The Wheat Kings’ news release is right here.
Brandon was the last of the four WHL teams to fill its coaching vacancy. • Kamloops Blazers — Shaun Clouston (June 17). • Prince George Cougars — Mark Lamb (July 4). • Spokane Chiefs — Manny Viveiros (July 9).
The Swift Current Broncos have signed Finnish D Kasper Puutio, who was the first overall selection in the CHL’s 2019 import draft. Puutio, 17, had a goal and three assists in 31 games with Kärpät’s U-20 team last season, and also had four goals and eight assists in 10 games with the U-18 side. He got into 13 games with Finland’s U-17 team, scoring once and adding eight assists, and had two assists in five games with the U-18 team. . . . He joins F Joona Kiviniemi, who also is from Finland, as the Broncos’ two import players. Kiviniemi, who will turn 18 on Dec. 17, also played for Kärpät before joining the Broncos. Last season, as a freshman with Swift Current, he had 16 goals and nine assists in 62 games.
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Mason Wilgosh is back with the Tri-City Americans, this time as a scout. The Winnipeg native will work as a regional scout in Manitoba. . . . Wilgosh, 28, played five seasons (2007-12) with the Americans, then went on to spend four seasons at the U of Prince Edward Island. . . . The Americans’ news release is right here. . . .
The ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen have signed Jason Christie, their vice-president of hockey operations and head coach, to a multi-year contract extension. The length of the extension wasn’t revealed. . . . Christie, 50, has been the team’s head coach since June 6, 2017. He has spent 16 seasons coaching in the ECHL and holds the league record for most regular-season victories (609). . . . From Gibbons, Alta., Christie played four seasons (1986-90) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . .
Keycorp Sports and Entertainment, led by Victoria businessman Jim Hartshorne, has purchased majority ownership in the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Also in the ownership group are Ron Coutre of Victoria; Tim MacLean, Dennis See and Stefanie Weber of Port Alberni; and the Port Alberni Jr. Hockey Society. . . . David Michaud, the president of Keycorp Sports and Entertainment, now is the Bulldogs’ president. He will oversee the organization’s business and hockey operations. . . . A news release on the sale is right here. . . .
Brent Polischuk is the new general manager and head coach of the junior B Saanich Braves, who play in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. From a news release: “Brent has extensive experience in coaching, player development, player evaluation and scouting. As a certified High Performance 1 coach, Brent has coached at all levels of competitive hockey and served in many roles in the BC Hockey and Hockey Canada Program of Excellence. These include Team Pacific Director of Operations, Vancouver Island District Evaluator, BC Hockey coach mentor and coach evaluator and most recently worked as Team USA host in the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship.” . . . Polischuk replaces Sam Waterfield, who left after two seasons. He now is an assistant coach with the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express.
More footage of six-gill at 528 meters from inside the sub last saturday. This sequence was taken by Lee Frey, our multi-talented sub pilot/engineer/inventor who designed the solenoid triggered spear guns for sub-based tagging. Thanks again to the entire OceanX team. Amazing.. pic.twitter.com/hnW4hQLhm7
F Jordan Draper (Red Deer, 2007-08) has signed a one-year contract with Crocodiles Hamburg (Germany, Oberliga). Last season, with Mulhouse (France, Ligue Magnus), he had 12 goals and nine assists in 42 games. . . . Draper is spending the summer with CBR Brave Canberra (Australia, AIHL). In 14 games, he has 15 goals and 26 assists. He leads the league in points, and is tied for the league lead in assists.
Vern Fiddler has moved from the coaching staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars to the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. . . . Fiddler, who played three seasons (1997-2000) with the Rockets, was added to Kelowna’s coaching staff on Wednesday. . . . Fiddler, 39, will work alongside head coach Adam Foote, assistant Kris Mallette, Adam Brown, who handles goaltenders, skills coach Kim Gellert, and power-skating coach Evan Marble. . . . Fiddler, from Edmonton, had been working as a skills development coach with Dallas, helping out in the NHL and with the AHL’s Texas Stars. . . . Fiddler was dealt by the Rockets to the Medicine Hat Tigers three games into the 2000-01 season. He finished his WHL career with the Tigers before going on to a pro career that included 877 NHL regular-season games. He last played in 2016-17 when he split the season between the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators. . . . The Rockets, who didn’t make the playoffs last season, are the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup.
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Former WHL D Giffen Nyren intends to plead guilty after he was charged following an attempt by a man to take a baby from a mother in Kelowna on April 28. . . . Nyren, 30, who is from Calgary, also was charged with assault and wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer following the incident. . . . Nyren’s next court appearance is set for July 23 in Kelowna at which time he is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced. . . . Nyren played for the Moose Jaw Warriors, Kamloops Blazers and Calgary Hitmen during four seasons (2006-10) in the WHL.
The Calgary Hitmen will have 49 of their 68 regular-season games carried on Sportsnet 960-The Fan, with the others online at sportsnet.ca/960. The games will be moved online due to a conflict with broadcasts of Calgary Flames games. . . . Brad Curle will be back as the play-by-play voice, with veteran broadcaster Jeff Hollick providing analysis during home games. . . . As well, The Hitmen Hockey Hour will be back on Saturdays with the first show on Sept. 28. . . .
The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed F Oren Shtrom, who was a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. Shtrom, who will turn 15 on Sept. 28, is from Gilbert, Ariz. He had three goals and 11 assists last season with the bantam AAA Phoenix Jr. Coyotes. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks have lost two members of their operations staff, both of whom have moved on to NHL teams. . . . Josh Dye, who had been Portland’s director of U.S. scouting and player development, has accepted a scouting post with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He will work out of Minnesota after spending 10 seasons (2006-13, 2016-19) with the Winterhawks. . . . Eric Fink, a Minnesota-based scout with Portland, is joining the Carolina Hurricanes’ scouting staff. He was with the Winterhawks for six seasons. . . .
The Spokane Chiefs have named George Ross as their director of United States scouting. . . . Ross had been a part-time scout in the western U.S. He started with the Chiefs in 2014-15, then scouting in his home state of Minnesota. His role expanded in 2016. . . .
Former WHL F Mike Brown has joined the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines as a skills coach. Brown, 29, is from Calgary. He played 171 regular-season WHL games, split between the Swift Current Broncos and Tri-City Americans (2006-11). . . .
Don Chesney, a veteran of the Saskatchewan hockey scene, has joined the junior B Fort Knox hockey club of the Prairie Junior Hockey League. He was assistant general manager and scout. . . . He spent the previous three seasons scouting for the MJHL’s Portage Terriers, who won two league titles and an ANAVET Cup while he was on their staff. . . . Fort Knox plays out of Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask.
The US will play the Netherlands in the Women's World Cup final.
"That's too bad, I was hoping we'd play the Dutch," said Donald Trump.