It’s expensive on WHL highways . . . Cougars in middle of $90,000 road trip . . . Broncos sign Aubin; Raiders return three

On the sixth day of our annual Christmas countdown, here is the great Harry Belafonte, who was my late father’s favourite, with Mary’s Boy Child. It’s right here.


MacBeth

F Ned Lukacevic (Spokane, Swift Current, 2001-06) has been released by the Odense Bulldogs (Denmark, Metal Ligaen) by mutual agreement. He had four goals and three assists in 19 games.


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The Prince George Cougars posted a 5-3 victory over the visiting Victoria Royals on Dec. 2.

Three days later, the Cougars left on a road trip. They won’t play at home again until Jan. PrinceGeorge11 when the Kelowna Rockets will pay a visit.

In between, the Cougars will play 11 games, seven in the U.S. where the exchange rate will take a big bite out of any team’s budget.

Here’s a day-by-day look at the Cougars travels (or is it travails?) . . .

Dec. 5 — Load bus and leave for Portland.

Dec. 6 — Off day in Portland.

Dec. 7 — Game in Portland.

Dec. 8 — Game in Portland.

Dec. 9 — Off day.

Dec. 10 — Off day.

Dec. 11 — Game in Kent, Wash.

Dec. 12 — Off day.

Dec. 13 — Off day.

Dec. 14 — Game in Victoria.

Dec. 15 — Off day.

Dec. 16 — Game in Vancouver.

Christmas break.

Dec. 27 — Off day.

Dec. 28 — Game in Kent, Wash.

Dec. 29 — Game in Everett.

Dec. 30 — Game in Kamloops; head home after game.

Dec. 31 — Off day.

Jan. 1 — Off day.

Jan. 2 — Off day.

Jan. 3 — Load bus and drive to Kelowna.

Jan. 4 — Game in Kelowna.

Jan. 5 — Off day in Kelowna.

Jan. 6 — Off day in Kelowna.

Jan. 7 — Load bus and head for Kennewick, Wash.

Jan. 8 — Game in Kennewick.

Jan. 9 — Game in Spokane; head home after game.

By my count, by the time the Cougars arrive home on Jan. 10, they will have spent about 25 days on the road, with at least nine of those days having been spent in the U.S.

I asked the general manager of one WHL team what it costs to keep a team on the road, and his response was between $3,000 and $4,000 per day, depending on how many are in the travelling party and where you are. He also added that it’s even more expensive in the U.S. “at a $1.35 exchange rate.”

Another GM told me that the cost per day is $3,000 to $3,500 for rooms and meals, with the bus expenses on top of that.

Understanding that all of these are ballpark figures . . .

Let’s say that it costs the Cougars $3,500 per day when they’re on the road, and that includes the return ferry trip to Victoria.

If they total 15 days in Canada, that’s $52,500.

Nine days in the U.S., with a $1.35 exchange rate, would cost $41,425.

Add it all up and playing 11 games on the road will have cost the Cougars more than $90,000.

This is a franchise that has played 17 of a scheduled 34 home games and has an announced average attendance of 2,668 fans, which is 19th in the 22-team league.

You can bet that Mark Lamb, who is in his first season as the Cougars’ general manager, is having some sleepless nights these days, and it isn’t because he can’t wait for Christmas to get here.

——

Late in October, John Pateman, one of the Cougars’ six co-owners, took time to chat with Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat for the latter’s Cat Scan podcast. Pateman, who is the team president, talked about the money factor:

“When we got into this, we would hope to not lose money. We managed to lose quite a bit and we’ll lose quite a bit this (season). Until we can have a bit of a playoff run, I think we will continue to lose money. . . . we would obviously like to break even but I think we have to hit the second round of the playoffs to do that.”

The Cougars lost the first five games of the afore-mentioned road trip. They are 11-19-3 and in fifth place in the five-team B.C. Division. While a playoff run does seem unlikely this season, they are only two points out of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.

Asked by Miller if the owners are in it for the long run, Pateman chuckled and replied: “I don’t think we have a choice . . . we’re in. It is what it is.”


D Bobby Russell of the Spokane Chiefs will miss his club’s first two games after the Christmas break as he sits out a two-game suspension that was handed down on Monday. . . . Russell took a cross-checking major and game misconduct during Sunday’s 6-5 victory over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . He will miss two home games — Dec. 28 against the Everett Silvertips and Dec. 29 against the Tri-City Americans.


The Swift Current Broncos have signed D Devin Aubin, 15, to a WHL contract. Aubin, from Falher, Alta., has two goals and one assist in 23 games with the midget AAA Grande Prairie Storm. . . . The Spokane Chiefs selected him in the fourth round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . The Broncos acquired Aubin, F Carter Chorney and F Kye Buchanan from the Chiefs on Dec. 4, giving up D Noah King, G Matthew Davis and a conditional fifth-round 2021 bantam pick in the exchange.


The Prince Albert Raiders have returned D Braydon Clark, 16, D Nolan Allan, 15, and F Tyson Laventure, 15, to their club teams. . . . Clark, from the the Valley West Giants of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League, is pointless in six games with the Raiders this season. He was a third-round selection in the 2017 WHL bantam draft. . . . Allan, from the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers, has one assist in seven games. He was the third overall pick in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . Laventure, from the Edmonton-OHL prep team, is pointless in three games. He was a third-rounder in 2018. . . . They helped the Raiders get through a stretch where they had four players away with international duties, and also had a couple of injuries.


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Kennedy makes move away from advocacy centre . . . Raiders’ Gunville dies at 48 . . . Richards gets eight-game sentence

MacBeth

F Hampus Gustafsson (Regina, Brandon, 2009-11) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Frisk Asker (Norway, GET-Ligaen) after requesting and receiving his release from Stjernen Fredrikstad (Norway, GET-Ligaen). With Stjernen, he had nine goals and 13 assists in 21 games, and he was the team captain. . . . Gustafsson’s contract with Frisk Asker has an option for two additional seasons.


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After 23 years of advocating on behalf of victims of abuse, Sheldon Kennedy revealed on Tuesday that he is stepping aside from the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary.

“From first introducing the idea of a Child Advocacy Centre to our Chief of Police in 2010,” Kennedy wrote, “to opening the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre in 2012 and having it renamed the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in 2013, I further stepped up that important work through my volunteer commitment to the SKCAC. I now understand that my name on the building really meant a personal responsibility for the day-to-day practice, the wellness of our front-line workers, the satisfaction of our donors and volunteers, and the proper treatment of the victims we serve. This has been a very rewarding eight years of my life and, at the same time, it has taken its toll.

“For the past several months I have had ongoing and emotional conversations with my family and close friends. They have been a great support and, through this process, I have decided to remove my name from the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

“I always preach to others that, first and foremost, they need to take care of their own mental health and find balance in their lives. I now need to take my own advice.”

Kennedy’s complete news release is right here.

Kennedy, now 49, played three seasons with the Swift Current Broncos, surviving the bus crash on Dec. 30, 1986, in which four of his teammates died, then helping the team to the 1989 Memorial Cup championship. During his time with the Broncos, he was sexually abused by the team’s general manager and head coach, Graham James.

Kennedy, who grew up in Elkhorn, Man., has spent the past few years criss-crossing the country, and also making appearances in the United States, as he worked tirelessly for his cause.

During that time, he also co-founded the Respect Group, a company that specializes in providing education on how to prevent bullying and abuse, and all that accompanies that, in the sports world, schools and the work place.

I have written this before and I will do so again and again. But it’s time for the WHL to strike an award in Kennedy’s name and to present it to those who have at one time or another been involved with the league and then gone on to make a difference elsewhere in life.

Kennedy has set that bar awfully high, however such an award wouldn’t have to be handed out on an annual basis, but rather presented when there was deemed to be a worthy recipient.

To understand the impact Kennedy has had one need only to search Twitter, which was inundated with testimonials on Tuesday.


Ron Gunville, the Prince Albert Raiders’ director of player personnel, died in hospital in his hometown of Prince Albert on Tuesday afternoon. Gunville, who had been battling cancer, was 48.

Mike Fraser, in his first season as the Everett Silvertips’ head scout, got to know Gunville PrinceAlbertwhile working with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

“I really liked him a lot,” Fraser told Taking Note. “He was a great scout but an even better human being and family man.”

Gunville, a defenceman in his playing days, played two seasons in the WHL. He was with the Raiders in 1988-89, then started 1989-90 with the Raiders but finished with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

He began his WHL scouting career with the Prince George Cougars (2009-13), before going to work with the Raiders prior to 2013-14. He was a scout for two seasons, then the head scout in 2015-16. When Dale Derkatch left to join the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Gunville replaced him as the Raiders’ director of player personnel.

“The best parts of my day were spent with Ron either in our office or on the phone,” Curtis Hunt, the Raiders’ general manager, said in a news release. “We shared the same passion and vision to build an outstanding program from the ground up.”


F Sean Richards of the Everett Silvertips was slapped with an eight-game suspension on Tuesday after he took a boarding major and game misconduct on Saturday against the whlhost Seattle Thunderbirds.

Richards drew the stiff suspension because, according to the WHL website, Seattle D Loeden Schaufler “was injured on the play” and “the player is a repeat offender.”

Schaufler is listed on the WHL’s weekly report as being out week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

Richards drew the longest WHL suspension since Nov. 4, 2016, when D Sam Ruopp of the Prince George Cougars was given eight games after becoming involved in a one-man fight during a game against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers two nights earlier.

Richards sat out Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs. He will be eligible to return on Jan. 6 against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. In between he will sit out two more games against Spokane, two against the Tri-City Americans, and singletons with the Vancouver Giants, Seattle Thunderbirds and Prince George.

Richards, who is scheduled to turn 20 on Saturday, drew a five-game suspension earlier this season after taking a headshot major and game misconduct in a game against Seattle on Oct. 5. He also drew two suspensions last season — a four-gamer for a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct against Seattle, and a deuce for a match penalty in a game against the Swift Current Broncos.

This season, in 27 games, Richards has 10 goals and eight assists.

The Silvertips also are without F Akash Bains and F Martin Fasko-Rudas, a pair of veterans who are out with undisclosed injuries. Both of them may return sometime in the next week.

Meanwhile, F Jermaine Loewen of the Kamloops Blazers has been suspended for three games after taking a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct in a game against the host Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday. Loewen didn’t play in Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Hitmen in Calgary. He also missed last night’s game in Red Deer and won’t play tonight in Medicine Hat. He will be eligible to return Friday in Cranbrook against the Kootenay Ice.

This was the second time this season that Loewen, the Blazers’ captain, has been suspended. He got four games for a headshot major and game misconduct against the visiting Portland Winterhawks on Oct. 5.


If you’re wondering how the Kelowna Rockets and assistant coach Travis Crickard ended up going in different directions last week, Glen Erickson shed some light on the subject KelownaRocketson Tuesday.

Crickard was in his fifth season with the Rockets, and had helped them win the Ed Chynoweth Cup in the spring of 2015.

When Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, hired Adam Foote to replace the fired Jason Smith on Nov. 30, it turns out that he gave the new coach the freedom to make changes.

“One of the things Adam wanted was the ability to change the coaches if he wanted and I agreed to that,” Hamilton told Erickson, who writes for the Kelowna Daily Courier and dubnetwork.ca. “The only thing I did say is you’ve got to spend some time with them first.”

Foote is the fourth Kelowna head coach under which Crickard and Kris Mallette, the other assistant, have worked. They started under Dan Lambert, and also worked with Brad Ralph and Smith.

Mallette also is into his fifth season with the Rockets, but his contract will expire at season’s end.

Erickson also reported that there is speculation in Kelowna that former Rockets defenceman and captain Josh Gorges may be in line to join the staff.

“The local product and veteran of 800-plus National Hockey League games has been highly visible at home games this season and has been on the ice at practices,” Erickson wrote.

As for Hamilton, he obviously knows that Gorges is around.

“Josh is only three or four months into retirement (as a player),” Hamilton told Erickson. “I don’t want to ask him to do something that he isn’t ready to do. Adam really likes him, but we’re not in a rush to hire anybody right now.”

Erickson’s piece for The Daily Courier is right here.


The Regina Pats, with a couple of regulars on the shelf, have added D Sam McGinley, 16, to their roster. McGinley was a fifth-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. From Calgary, he has five goals and 10 assists in 19 games with the Edge School’s prep team in his hometown. . . . The Pats are without D Ryker Evans and D Brady Pouteau, both of whom are out with undisclosed injuries.


With G Ian Scott in camp with Canada’s national junior team, the Prince Albert Raiders have added G Brett Balas, 17, to their roster. . . . The Raiders also are without F Brett Leason, who is in Canada’s camp, and F Aliaksei Protas and D Sergei Sapego, both of whom are with Belarus at the IIHF World Junior Championship (Division I Group A) in Fussen, Germany. . . . So the Raiders have added F Tyson Laventure, 15, to their roster. . . . Balas, a third-round selection in the 2016 WHL bantam draft, is playing with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks. . . . Laventure, from Lloydminster, Alta., was a second-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft. He is playing with the Edmonton-OHA prep team and has 18 goals and 25 assists in 22 games. . . . The Raiders are scheduled to play host to the Edmonton Oil Kings tonight.


According to the WHL’s weekly roster report, D Jacson Alexander of the Edmonton Oil EdmontonOilKingsKings won’t play again this season due to an undisclosed injury. Alexander, 17, was a first-round selection by the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. . . . The Oil Kings acquired him from the Broncos in a trade on Aug. 21. . . . Last season, Alexander had one goal and four assists in 32 regular-season games with the Broncos, then added one assist in 26 playoff games. This season, he had three goals and two assists in 15 games. He last played on Oct. 26.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes have signed F Chase Wheatcroft and D Rylan Thiessen to WHL contracts. . . . Wheatcroft, 16, is a list player who was in the Hurricanes’ camp in August. This season, he has 12 goals and eight assists in 21 games with the midget AAA Calgary Royals. . . . Thiessen,17, also is a list player. The Brandonite has eight goals and 15 assists in 19 games with the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings.


COUNTDOWN TO DEADLINE

(WHL trade deadline: Jan. 10, 3 p.m. MT)

Tuesday’s action:

No. of trades: 0.

Players: 0.

Bantam draft picks: 0.

Conditional draft picks: 0.

——

Total deals (since Nov. 26):

No. of trades: 12.

Players: 33.

Bantam draft picks: 21.

Conditional draft picks: 4.

(Note: On Nov. 30, Kelowna traded F Jack Cowell, 19, to Kootenay for a third-round selection in the 2020 bantam draft. Cowell chose not to report and the deal was voided, so isn’t included in these totals.)


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TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Gary Haden scored four times, including the game’s last three goals, and added an Saskatoonassist to lead the host Saskatoon Blades to a 6-3 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Saskatoon (20-10-3) has won three in a row. . . . The last time the Blades won 20 games quicker during one season was 2011-12 when they were 20-11-1 after 32 games. (Thanks to Les Lazaruk, the Blades’ radio voice, for that gem.) . . . Edmonton (16-12-5) had points in each of its previous three games (2-0-1). . . . Haden enjoyed his first career hat trick and his first five-point game. . . . According to the WHL (@TheWHL), it was the first four-goal game for a Blades player since Oct. 6, 2013, when F Nathan Burns did it against the Regina Pats. . . . D Matthew Robertson (5) pulled the visitors into a 3-3 tie at 11:10 of the second period. . . . Haden, who has 12 goals, broke the tied at 8:11 of the third, added insurance at 12:04 and put it away at 12:25. . . . Haden, 19, has 11 goals and 10 assists in 20 games with the Blades, after opening the season with a goal and two assists in nine games with the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . F Brett Kemp scored his 20th goal of the season for the Oil Kings. He has 20 in 33 games; last season, he finished with 17 in 69.


The Kelowna Rockets struck three times on the PP en route to a 3-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B.C. . . . Kelowna (15-15-2) has points in five straight (4-0-1). . . . This was the first of a four-game road trip for the Rockets, who also will stop in Lethbridge, Calgary and Medicine Hat before breaking for Christmas. . . . Kootenay (7-21-6) has lost 12 straight (0-9-3). . . . The Rockets, who were 3-4 on the PP, got two goals from F Leif Mattson. . . . He made it 1-0 at 5:26 of the first period and 3-1 at 2:46 of the second. He’s got 14 goals. . . . F Kyle Topping (13) gave Kelowna a 2-0 lead at 11:50 of the first. . . . Kootenay got its goal from F Cole Muir (7), at 1:31 of the second period. . . . Kelowna finished 3-4 on the PP.


The Red Deer Rebels built a 2-0 lead and hung on for a 2-1 victory over the visiting Red DeerKamloops Blazers. . . . The Rebels (20-9-2) have points in four straight. . . . The Blazers (12-13-3) have lost three in a row (0-2-1), all of them on a Central Division trip. . . . F Reese Johnson (14) gave Red Deer a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 16:27 of the first period. . . . F Alex Morozoff (6) upped that to 2-0 at 15:06 of the second. . . . F Brodi Stuart (8) scored for Kamloops at 7:14 of the third. . . . Red Deer was 1-9 on the PP; Kamloops was 0-3. . . . G Dylan Ferguson stopped 41 shots for Kamloops, 10 more than Red Deer’s Ethan Anders. . . . The Blazers, already without F Jermaine Loewen who is two games into a three-game suspension, lost F Zane Franklin at 12:14 of the first period when he was given a boarding major and game misconduct for a hit on D Alex Alexeyev, who left the game and didn’t return. In fact, he was taken to hospital, but an update on his condition wasn’t available after the game. . . . Alexeyev also is on the selection-camp roster for the Russian team that is to play in the 2019 World Junior Championship.


F Zack Andrusiak struck for five points with F Nolan Volcan adding four, including three Seattlegoals, as the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Prince George Cougars, 6-5, in Kent, Wash. . . . Seattle improved to 11-14-3. . . . The Cougars (11-17-3) have lost three in a row. . . . F Vladislav Mikhalchuk gave the Cougars a 3-1 lead at 16:34 of the first period. . . . The Thunderbirds scored the game’s next four goals. . . . Volcan’s first goal, at 17:39, got the Thunderbirds to within a goal. . . . D Jarret Tyszka (1) tied it 47 seconds into the second period. . . . Volcan gave Seattle the lead at 1:57, and Andrusiak, who has 21 goals, stretched the lead, on a PP, at 9:50. . . . Mikhalchuk (11), who also had an assist, cut Prince George’s deficit to one at 13:01, only to have Volcan complete his second career hat trick, on a PP, at 9:25. . . . F Josh Maser (10) got the Cougars’ last goal, at 18:00. . . . Andrusiak finished with two goals, giving him 21, and three assists for his first five-point game after four four-pointers. . . . Volcan’s night included his 200th regular-season point. He now has 203 points, including 83 goals, in 291 games.


The host Victoria Royals erased a 2-0 deficit with five straight goals and went on to a 7-4 VictoriaRoyalsvictory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Victoria (14-12-1) had lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . Portland (18-11-2) had a four-game winning streak end. . . . F Cross Hanas and F Joachim Blichfeld (27) gave Portland a 2-0 lead before the first period was 11 minutes old. . . . The Royals scored three times before the period ended, with F Tarun Fizer, F Brandon Cutler (6) and D Ralph Jarratt (3) finding the range. . . . F Dante Hannoun and Fizer added goals early in the second period for a 5-2 lead. . . . F Mason Mannek (8) got the Winterhawks to within two at 15:49, only to have the Royals strike twice more. . . . Fizer, who scored twice in 45 games last season, completed his first career hat trick with his seventh goal at 17:48. . . . Hannoun later added his 12th goal, with Hanas (5) scoring again for Portland. . . . D Scott Walford drew four assists for the Royals, with Hannoun adding two assists for a four-point night, too. . . . They’ll do it all over again tonight in Victoria.


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