Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering about the (mis-)state of NHL officiating . . .

Scattershooting2


Had you suggested to me in January that I would have two shots of Pfizer in me by now, I would have told you that you were nuts. But that’s the case. I got Pfizer’d for a second time on Saturday, 10 days after Dorothy got her second dose. . . . We got all four of our shots at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops and, let me tell you, the operation there was running like a a well-oiled machine. On Saturday afternoon, I had a 2:15 appointment. I walked in the door at 2 o’clock. Got my shot at 2:06. Was on my way out the door at 2:21.

——

On the way home, I made one stop, ducking into a small grocery store to get some plastic utensils. You know . . . just in case.


Here are a few notes of interest from Tyler Kepner of The New York Times, from a piece on the website on Tuesday: “In the 2016 season, there were 3,294 more hits than strikeouts in the majors. By 2018, strikeouts had narrowly overtaken hits. And if the 2021 numbers continue at the current rates, there will be about 5,200 more strikeouts than hits this season.” . . . Yes, MLB has a problem.


It was with some interest that I noticed Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, WHL2was given a three-year contract extension by the board of governors the other day, and that the pooh-bahs had voted unanimously in favour of it. He has been in his office for 21 years, which is as long as Ed Chynoweth ruled the league, albeit in two separate stints. Interestingly, I don’t ever recall Chynoweth having unanimous support when it came time for a new deal. . . . In fact, I can remember one time, in March of 1976, when Chynoweth actually offered up his resignation. “It isn’t a play for money,” he said. “It is simply that there is too much hassle. It is starting to bother me that all my friends in Saskatoon are going to the airport to take flights out for winter holidays. I go to the airport and fly to Flin Flon.” . . . No, his offer wasn’t accepted.


Time out. My ears are ringing. I just gotta answer this one. It might be an incoming call from Bill Gates. Be right back . . . Ahh, it was only another coal train — or maybe it was an oil train — on the CP mainline across the river.


Wed


First it was Dominique Ducharme, the Montreal Canadiens’ interim head coach, nhl2testing positive for COVID-19, while every other team member has come up negative. . . . And then word came on Sunday that Kelly McCrimmon, the general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, also has tested positive and is in self-isolation in Montreal. Apparently, no other team member has tested positive. . . . How does it happen that only one person in a team situation like this tests positive? Or is this all of this just an example of COVID-19’s quirky sense of humour? . . . BTW, that fourth Wheat Kings goaltender in the tweet at the top of this post is actually D Ryan Pulock, now of the New York Islanders. He made a game-saving stop on Saturday as the Islanders beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. . . . When McCrimmon was running the Wheat Kings, he drafted Pulock and helped turn him into the player he is today. McCrimmon, of course, also has had a thing or two to do with putting together the Golden Knights. What this means is that McCrimmon could end up having something to do with two teams reaching the NHL final.


A lot will be said and written about Kevin Durant’s airball at the conclusion of Saturday night’s Milwaukee Bucks’ OT victory over the New Jersey Nets. But not enough will be said and written about the defence provided by Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday on the play. He was on Durant like you’re supposed to be and he did it within the rules. . . . BTW, Durant played all 53 minutes. He was 0-for-6 from the field in the OT period. Might his legs have left him?

——

It was Herb Brooks who told his 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team that “the legs feed the wolf.” That might well have been proven on Saturday night when the Nets didn’t eat.


In mentioning here last week that the WHL’s board of governors had scrubbed Vancouverinter-conference play at least for 2021-22, I suggested that it likely was done in an effort to cut costs because teams haven’t had any revenue coming since mid-March of 2019. . . . Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, doesn’t see it that way. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia wrote: “Toigo balked at the idea that cost-cutting was the main factor in the league’s decision to do away with these road trips for a season. He says that it’s more about extended travel coming out of these COVID-19 times.” . . . Ewen then quoted Toigo as saying: “I think you want to do what you know you can count on being able to do. I think it’s logistical more than anything. We’re going to do more games with the U.S. teams. There’s good teams in the U.S. The more you see them, the more intense the games get, and the better the rivalries get.”


A NBA-related note from Janice Hough, aka the Left Coast Sports Babe: “A Twitter pal said ‘John Stockton’s stupidity has jinxed the Jazz.’ Hey, as good an explanation as any how a No. 1 seed with a 22-point lead against the Kawhi-less Clippers could not only blow a lead but lose by 12.” . . . She added: “For those who missed it, Stockton appeared in an anti-vaccine video.”


Sharks


Things I wonder about at 3 in the morning . . . How is the WHL going to deal with league and team officials, on-ice officials and players in regards to vaccinations in the lead-up to and during the 2021-22 season? . . . What if the Toronto Blue Jays had a bullpen? . . . How is construction on that new arena that is to house the Winnipeg Ice coming along? Will it be done in time for the 2021-22 season? . . . What’s happening with the lease-related lawsuit the City of Cranbrook filed against the WHL and the Ice’s owners in January? . . . Is it time for the NHL to go back to having one referee on the ice? Or maybe games  should play without any as they seemed to be doing for much of Sunday’s game between Vegas and host Montreal. Either way, the two-man system just doesn’t seem to be doing the job, does it? . . . More than two months have passed us by since the BCHL confirmed that it was leaving the umbrella of the Canadian Junior Hockey League. When will it let the world in on its plans for the immediate future?


Headline at The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton): Man gets away with murder after eyewitness turns out to be NHL referee.


On Thursday, Brazil’s health ministry said there had been 66 positive tests among people involved with the Copa America soccer tournament. By Friday, that number had grown to 82. . . . Gee, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to move the tournament into one of the world’s hotspots? . . . Don’t forget that tournament organizers had said that it would be “the safest sporting event in the world.”

——

Soccer’s World Cup is to be decided in Qatar in 2022 and the country’s government has announced that spectators will have to have been vaccinated in order to be admitted to venues. . . . To date, Qatar has experienced 220,800 positive tests and 585 deaths. . . . The World Cup is scheduled to open on Nov. 21, 2022.


Look, everyone knows that baseball is full of enough numbers to choke a calculator. But this from Dan Shulman, the sometimes voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, about blew me away: “On the heels of (Saturday’s) nine-pitch AB, how about this — Bo Bichette has fouled off 278 pitches this season, more than anyone in baseball . . .” So that got me to wondering if there’s a post-season award for that?


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Confucius

WHL dumps inter-conference play, changes playoff format . . . Sasakamoose book well worth your time . . . Raiders’ radio voice steps aside

The WHL’s 2021-22 season won’t include any interlocking play between WHL2Eastern and Western conferences, which means, unfortunately, that fans in U.S. and B.C. division centres won’t get to see F Connor Bedard, the most-publicized prospect to enter the league in some time, live and in person. . . . Bedard is the first player to receive exceptional status in order to allow him to claim a full-time WHL roster spot as a 15-year-old. Bedard, who will turn 16 on July 17, has 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games for the Pats in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. He left the Pats mid-season in order to play for Canada at the IIHF U18 World championship in Texas, where he had seven goals and seven assists in 14 games. . . . Bedard is eligible for the NHL’s 2023 draft. . . . It also means that those same U.S. and B.C. division fans won’t get to see F Matthew Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice. He was denied exceptional status prior to the 2018-19 season, but still got into 22 games and earned seven assists. He spent 2020-21 with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, putting up 21 goals and 17 assists in 34 games. . . . Savoie is eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . .

The WHL didn’t offer a reason for dumping inter-conference play in the news release it issued on Tuesday following the conclusion of its annual general meeting. However, I think we can assume that it’s all about trying to save money after not seeing any playoff revenue for two seasons now. . . . The WHL also announced that it plans to open its regular season on Oct. 1, with each team playing a 68-game schedule within its own conference. . . . The WHL added that “with the anticipated lifting of health restrictions in all jurisdictions” it expects to play its games without attendance restrictions. . . . If all goes according to plan, the regular season will end on April 3. . . . That would mean the WHL playoffs would start on April 8. Keep in mind that because of the pandemic the WHL hasn’t featured a playoff game since May 13, 2019, when the host Prince Albert Raiders won the championship with a 3-2 OT victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The WHL has changed its playoff format, going back to a conference format that last was used in the spring of 2014. The two division winners will be seeded first and second, with the next six teams slotted three through eight. The first round will have one vs. eight, two vs. seven, etc., with teams reseeded by points after each round. . . . The WHL’s complete news release is right here.


With the Vegas Golden Knights having opened one Stanley Cup semifinal on VegasMonday night with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, it seems the rest of the hockey world is learning what WHL fans have known for a long, long time. Yes, Kelly McCrimmon, the Golden Knights’ general manager, knows what he is doing.

Here’s columnist Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, writing about the Golden Knights prior to the start of the series:

“Just four years into their history, the stunning story of their rookie season is kind of yesterday’s news. Today, they are merely one of the best teams in the NHL. Owned by Bill Foley. The fans are of another level. The presidential work and so much other work done by George McPhee. The GM, McCrimmon, is the most effective in the NHL. Unafraid of making enormous trades. Unafraid of giant-sized signings. Unafraid of drafting players and then sending them packing in exchange for tangible assets. Unafraid of doing what others may think about, but rarely act upon.”

Doesn’t that pretty much describe the way McCrimmon operated when he owned the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings?

Simmons’ complete piece is right here.


SasakamooseIf you are in the market for something to read, may I suggest you take a gander at Call Me Indian, a book that was published last month and tells the story of Fred Sasakamoose. What’s it all about? Well, the subtitle pretty much tells it all — From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treat Indigenous Player. . . . To think that Sasakamoose went from playing hockey and trying just to survive at a residential school in northern Saskatchewan to the lineup of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in a few short years almost beggars belief. But he did just that, and a whole lot more. . . . Considering all that is happening these days involving residential schools and their history, both here and in the U.S., this really is a timely read. . . . Sasakamoose, who died of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 so didn’t live to see his book published, doesn’t go easy on himself either. He bares his heart and soul, including his issues with alcohol and parenting. In fact, if there is a hero in this book it isn’t Sasakamoose, rather it’s his long-suffering wife Loretta with whom he had nine children. . . . Give this book a try; I guarantee it’ll stay with you for a long time after you’re finished with it.



ICYMI, the CFL’s board of governors voted Monday to have the league’s nine CFLteams begin a 14-game regular season on Aug. 5. The season is to begin with a rematch of the last Grey Cup game — the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 33-12, in Calgary on Nov. 24, 2019. . . . The CFL hasn’t played a game since then because of the pandemic. . . . The 2021 season is to open with that rematch being played in Winnipeg. . . . The 2021 Grey Cup game is to be played in Hamilton on Dec. 12. . . . Training camps are to open on July 10, with players needing to report and go through a quarantine process that will be decided in conjunction with local health officials. . . . There won’t be any exhibition games. . . . Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun takes a look at the CFL situation right here. . . . BTW, the Labour Day Classic in Regina is scheduled for Sept. 5, with the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Sept. 11. In other words, all is almost right with the world.


Bobcats


Abbotsford Aces? Fraser Valley Falcons? The Vancouver Canucks are asking hockey fans in the Fraser Valley what they should name the AHL franchise that is to begin play in Abbotsford in the fall. The Canucks are moving their AHL affiliate, formerly the Utica Comets, to Abbotsford. . . . Daniel Wagner of vancouverisawesome.com has more right here.


Eric Bélanger has signed on as the first head coach in the history of the Trois-TRLionsRivières Lions, an expansion ECHL franchise that will be affiliated with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. . . . Bélanger, 43, spent the previous two seasons as the head coach of the midget AAA Chevaliers de Lévis. . . . His playing career included 820 NHL regular-season games split between the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. . . . In 2008-09, he was teammates with Marc-André Bergeron with the Minnesota Wild. Bergeron now is the Lions’ general manager.


Milkyway


The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, a 20-team junior B league, kijhlsaid Monday that it will open its 2021-22 season on Oct. 1 and wrap things up on Feb. 20. . . . “All 20 of the KIJHL’s member clubs will complete a 42-game regular season schedule that includes eight games against divisional opponents and two games each against teams in the opposing division within the same conference,” the league said in a news release. . . . That means that the Spokane Braves will be back after not operating in 2020-21 due to the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential traffic. . . . The KIJHL news release is right here.


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Trevor Redden, the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders for the past four seasons, is leaving the position, citing wanting to prioritize “a different work-life balance, and being able to spend more time with family and friends.” He made the announcement via social media on Tuesday. Redden said that he will be remaining in Prince Albert where he works with Pattison Media Ltd. . . . Former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Mike Stothers has joined the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks as an assistant coach. He spent the previous five seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Stothers, 59, was the Warriors’ head coach for three seasons (2011-14). . . .

The junior B Creston Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Bill Rotheisler, their general manager and head coach, to a one-year deal through 2021-22. Rotheisler is preparing for his second season in Creston, although his first season amounted to only three games because of the pandemic. If you aren’t familiar with Rotheisler’s story, including his battle with lymphatic cancer, Google is your friend. . . . Serge Lajoie, who spent one season (2018-19) as head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has been named head coach of Alberta’s male U16 team. Lajoie also is the head coach of OHA Edmonton’s U18 prep team.


Backseat

Team Canada writes thrilling final golden chapter . . . Vegas fans get to cheer three times for one goal . . . Fire strikes Meadow Lake’s arena



You really have to feel good for the Canadian team that won the gold medal on CanadaSunday at the IIHF World men’s championship in Riga, Latvia. A gritty bunch if ever there was one, these guys lost their first three games and were outscored 10-2 in the process, only to bounce back and win four in a row, including a 3-2 OT victory over Finland in the championship game. . . . F Nick Paul of the Ottawa Senators got the winner at 6:26 of overtime. . . . It is the first time in any IIHF World championship that a team opened 0-3 and went on to win the whole thing. . . . Finland had beaten Canada, 3-2 in a shootout, in a preliminary game on Tuesday. . . . This was the 27th time Canada has won the championship, but the first since 2016. . . . After starting 0-3, Canada went on to beat three of the opening rounds top teams — Russia, the U.S., and Finland. . . . Interestingly, Canada’s overall record was 3-3-1, the 1 being an OTL, while the U.S., which beat German, 6-1, to win bronze on Sunday, wound up 6-1-0. The only loss suffered by the U.S. was to Canada — 4-2 in a semifinal. . . .

Michael Dyck, the head coach of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, was an assistant coach with Team Canada, which also included D Braden Schneider, the Brandon Wheat Kings’ captain. Schneider had one assist in nine games. . . . Also on the Canadian team were G Darcy Kuemper, who played with the Red Deer Rebels, G Aden Hill (Portland Winterhawks), F Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Spokane Chiefs) and F Brandon Hagel (Red Deer). . . . Former NHL G Roberto Luongo was Canada’s general manager and now has another gold medal to hang alongside the two he won as a player (2003, 2004). . . . Canadian F Connor Brown (Ottawa Senators) drew three assists in the final to set a Canadian tournament record with 14. Brown led the tournament with 16 points. . . . Old friend Neate Sager (@n8sager) points out where Canada’s top three forwards were at age 16: “Nick Paul was undrafted, made the OHL a year later; Connor Brown was an 11th-rounder; IIHF Worlds MVP Andrew Mangiapane was never drafted.”



If you were watching the host Vegas Golden Knights’ 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night, you saw the NHL replay system at its best. . . . And you can bet that most of the fans in the building absolutely loved it because they got to cheer three times for one goal. . . . First, they roared when F Patrick Brown appeared to score at 13:13 of the third period for a 5-1 Vegas lead. However, the officials went to replay to see whether Brown had shoved G Philipp Grubauer into the net with the puck underneath him. After the review, the officials signalled that it was a good goal. The crowd roared again. . . . At that point, Colorado head coach Jared Bednar challenged the play for goaltender interference. So the officials went back to video before ruling, again, that it was a good goal. And the crowd got to roar one more time. . . . Yes, it was a good night for Vegas fans.


Anon


The MJHL has announced that “the puck will drop for opening weekend” on Friday, Sept. 17, COVID-19 and its variants willing, of course. If you haven’t noticed, Manitoba hasn’t been in a good place for the last while. . . . Opening weekend will have the 12 teams playing home-and-home rivalry series. . . . Each team will play 54 games in the regular season. . . . There is a complete news release right here. . . . BTW, the MJHL’s Neepawa franchise is scheduled to announce its rebranding today (Monday).



Arena
Meadow Lake’s arena is in ruins after a Sunday morning fire. (Photo: Meadow Lake Memories/Facebook)

The 45-year-old arena in Meadow Lake, Sask., burned to the ground early Sunday morning. . . . “The Meadow Lake fire department was on hand quickly and trying their hardest to get the flames down,” Clay DeBray, a city councillor, told Saskatoon radio station CKOM. “It was pretty devastating to see.” . . . The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported that Saskatchewan RCMP said the fire “appeared to have been set” in a nearby storage shed. According to the newspaper, the RCMP “said the concession stand that shares the parking lot with the arena was also broke into, also on June 6.”


Grinch


If you’re looking for a good read on what the PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm went through at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio on Saturday, Rob Oller of The Columbus Dispatch has a column right here. . . . “Golf and business have always gone hand-in-hand, with hammered drives sharing workspace with handshake deals,” Oller writes. “So let’s speak the language of corporate attorneys and CEO consultants: Jon Rahm made a bad business decision.” . . . The complete column is right here.


Although we’re open for donations until Aug. 31, the 2021 Kamloops Kidney Walk was completed, albeit virtually, on Sunday. Dorothy, who had a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013, took part for an eighth straight year. . . . Thanks to so many of you, she had her top fund-raising Walk, too, as her friends gave her $3,875 through Sunday night. Her previous high had been $3,340 in 2020. . . . Thank you so much! . . . And if you still would like to donate, you are able to do so right here.

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: G Rayce Ramsay will be back with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos for his 20-year-old season. Ramsay, from Saskatoon, played two games with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers in 2018-19 and 25 in 2019-20 (13-8-1, 3.07, .880). He started 2020-21 with the Broncos, going 5-1-0 before the season was done in by the pandemic.


Online

Two OHL teams file lawsuits over COVID-19 losses . . . Berard and Canada into semifinal at U18 tourney . . . Ominous words from B.C.’s top doctor?

That was a public service announcement from the premier of Nova Scotia. Please pay attention to what he has to say.


A pair of OHL teams — the Kingston Frontenacs and Sudbury Wolves — had pandemic-related insurance claims rejected by insurers and now have filed lawsuits claiming breach of contract, according to Rick Westhead of TSN. . . . Westhead reported that the Frontenacs filed a $1.1-million lawsuit against Lloyd’s Insurance Co., on Jan. 22, and the Wolves filed a $1-million lawsuit against Intact Insurance Co., on March 12. . . . Both teams are claiming that insurers breached contracts by “refusing to cover financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Westhead wrote. . . . His complete story is right here. . . . You are free to wonder if this is the start of something.


An update to something I mentioned here late last week. . . . F Peyton Krebs isn’t Vegasgoing to the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights; rather, he bypassed the AHL and went straight to the NHL where he made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night against the host Minnesota Wild. . . . Krebs recorded his first NHL point — an assist — in 9 minutes 5 seconds of ice time in a 6-5 loss to the Wild. He got the primary assist on a first-period goal by F Alex Tuch that gave Vegas a 3-2 lead. . . . Vegas selected him with the 17th pick of the NHL’s 2019 draft. Krebs just finished his 19-year-old season with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice by leading the Regina hub with 43 points in 24 games. . . . He has AHL experience, having put up a goal and four assists in five games with the Silver Knights before the WHL season began. . . .

Meanwhile, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks have said they have assigned F Ozzy Wiesblatt of the Prince Albert Raiders to the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda. The Sharks selected him 31st overall in the NHL’s 2020 draft. Wiesblatt, who turned 19 on March 9, made his AHL debut before the WHL season started, scoring one goal in three games. . . . This season with the Raiders, he had seven goals and 21 assists in 23 games in the Regina hub.



F Connor Bedard had two goals and three assists on Monday as Canada dumped U18Czech Republic, 10-3, in one of four quarterfinal games at the IIHF U18 World Championship in Frisco and Plano, Texas. . . . Also on Monday, Sweden dumped Team USA, 5-2; Finland blanked Switzerland, 2-0; and Russia beat Belarus, 5-2. . . . The semifinals are scheduled for Wednesday with Canada playing Sweden at 2 p.m. PT, and Finland meeting Russia at 6 p.m. PT. . . . Bedard, 15, has three goals and six assists in five games. . . . Russian F Matvei Michkov, who turned 16 on Dec. 9, leads the tournament in goals (10) and points (12).


It appears that the WHL’s Everett Silvertips have lost D Kasper Puutio to KalPa EverettKuopio of Finland’s top professional league. It was announced Monday that Puutio has signed a two-year contract with the Liiga team. . . . Puutio, who will turn 19 on June 3, played with the Swift Current Broncos, who had selected him first overall in the 2019 CHL import draft, and the Silvertips in 2019-20, but pandemic-related travel restrictions meant he stayed in Finland this season. . . . Playing in Liiga with Kärpät, Puutio had a goal and two assists in 29 games. He also had two assists with Finland’s national junior team as it finished third at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton. . . . The Silvertips acquired him from the Broncos on Jan. 10, 2020. He had one goal and 15 assists in 35 games with the Broncos, then added four goals and eight assists in 21 games with the Silvertips. . . . The Florida Panthers selected him in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2020 draft.


The AHL announced that is has postponed a game between the Utica Comets and host Rochester Americans that was to have been played on Monday night. The move was made “out of an abundance of caution in accordance with league protocols.” . . . The AHL didn’t release any other information. . . . Earlier this season, the Comets lost 10 straight games due to an outbreak within their roster.

Meanwhile, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche placed G Devan Dubnyk on the COVID-19 protocol list on Monday. Later that night, it was confirmed that he has tested positive and will be sidelined for at least two weeks while he is in quarantine.


Whistleblower


If you are in B.C., and if you’re looking forward to big crowds at sporting events in three or four months, well, there were some ominous words from Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, on Monday.

During a news conference, she said:

“We have seen that things can happen and change very quickly . . . there is not likely to be big events of any sort, even outdoors, through this summer, and into the fall and winter of next year.”

I don’t know exactly what this means, but I have a feeling there will be a whole lot more on this in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, there was one WHL game on Monday night . . .

In Kamloops, F Matthew Seminoff opened and closed the scoring and D Fraser KamloopsMinten picked up four assists as the Blazers beat the Victoria Royals, 5-2. . . . Kamloops (14-4-0) has won two in a row. . . . Victoria (2-14-2) had points in each of its previous two games (1-0-1). . . . The Blazers points percentage now is .778, putting them back atop the B.C. Division, just ahead of the idle Kelowna Rockets (8-2-1, .773). . . . Seminoff, who has eight goals, gave the Blazers a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 4:19 of the first period. . . . The Royals tied it at 10:46 when F Brandon Cutler (8) scored on a PP. . . . Kamloops went back in front at 1:23 of the second period on a goal by F Daylan Kuefler (4). But the Royals got it right back when F Tarun Fizer (5) scored 25 seconds later. . . . However, Kamloops scored the game’s next three goals. . . . F Tye Spencer (2) broke the tie 16 seconds after Fizer’s goal. . . . F Connor Levis (6) struck on a PP at 18:24, and Seminoff wrapped up the scoring at 14:40 of the third period. . . . G Dylan Garand stopped 24 shots for Kamloops, four fewer than the Royals’ Adam Evanoff. . . . Minten, 16, was a fourth-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft. He went into this game with a goal and seven assists in 15 games. . . . D Austin Zemlak made his WHL debut with the Royals. From Fort McMurray, he was the ninth overall selection in the 2020 bantam draft. . . . The Blazers were without F Connor Zary for a third straight game after he was injured on a high hit in a 5-1 loss to the Prince George Cougars on Wednesday night. The Blazers have four games remaining before wrapping up their season on May 12 and you have to wonder if Zary will return at all. . . . F Jonny Hooker of the Cougars had his suspension set at four games on Monday. He has sat out two, so won’t play tonight or Wednesday — the Cougars are scheduled to play Kelowna and Vancouver — before being eligible to return Saturday against Victoria.


CBC News reported Monday afternoon that Bernie Lynch, a longtime hockey coach who was on the staff of the WHL’s Regina Pats in 1988-89, “has been charged with sexual assault and assault . . . following a complaint from a former player.” . . . The Regina Police Service issued a warrant for his arrest on Friday and, according to CBC News, Lynch turned himself in to police in Devon, Alta. . . . “He faces one count each of sexual assault and assault,” CBC reported, “dating back to August 1988. The complainant was 17 at the time.” . . . The complete story is right here.


——

Don’t forget that my wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on June 6. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here.

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Gator

Scattershooting on a Saturday night while wondering if Golden Knights will have to pay that hotel bill . . .

Scattershooting2


Kelly McCrimmon has eaten hundreds of pre-game meals since 1977. That’s when he first played junior hockey, with the Prince Albert Raiders, who then were in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

VegasBut even with that kind of history, McCrimmon, 60, experienced a first involving a pregame meal on Friday in San Jose.

The former owner, general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, McCrimmon now is the general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, who were in San Jose on Friday to begin a weekend doubleheader with the Sharks.

The Golden Knights were staying at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose, which is where they gathered for their pregame meal early on Friday afternoon. As things turned out, those were the last meals anyone will be having in that hotel, at least for a while.

That’s because the hotel declared bankruptcy — the San Jose Mercury News reported that its owners’ debts are between $100 million and $500 million — and it shut its doors as the Golden Knights were enjoying dessert.

“Crazy times,” McCrimmon told me on Saturday night. “Staff had no idea it was coming. They got ushered right out of the building.”

The Golden Knights, had to pack their bags, then head to the SAP Center for Friday’s game, knowing that at game’s end they would be going to a different hotel.

While the disruption no doubt gave them something to talk about, it didn’t seem to bother the players on the ice. The Golden Knights beat the Sharks, 5-4 in OT, on Friday, then 4-0 on Saturday.

Justin Emerson of the Las Vegas Sun pointed out: “This will affect more than just the Golden Knights. Because of NHL virus protocols, the league designates one hotel in a city to serve as every visiting team’s lodging to ensure the hotel abides by league rules. So when the St. Louis Blues come to town on Monday, they won’t be staying at the Fairmont Hotel.”


Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Many spring training ballparks have opened up to a limited number of fans, so how do half of those fans show their gratitude to be at a live ballgame after a year of quarantine? By refusing to mask up and protect the other fans from that still-deadly virus. I salute you anti-maskers for your fearlessness and courage, your refusal to be bullied by nerdy scientists, but some of your fellow fans are allergic to death.”


I smiled when I heard from an old friend the other day. He and his wife had had to make a driving trip that took them along the Yellowhead Highway and through Hinton, Alta.

After arriving back home, he messaged me: “I smile when I see ‘Old Drinnan Town’ sign.”

That would be the same sign that welcomes all comers to this website. Yes, it’s a real sign, located just off the highway a few slapshots east of Hinton.

(BTW, a chunk of the Trans-Canada Highway that runs through Hinton actually is Gregg Avenue. Oh, and Gregg Lake is about 30 km north of Hinton. And let’s not forget Mount Drinnan, which is located near Drinnan Creek about 30 km south of Hinton.)


Headline at The Onion: COVID Announces Plan To Move Operations To Texas Full-Time To Escape Burdensome Regulations.


“A Tom Brady rookie trading card — an autographed 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket version — sold for a record $1.32 million last week,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Or more than 1½ times what his latest Super Bowl counterpart, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, got paid in base salary last season.”

——

Here’s Perry, again: “March 4, in case you missed it, was supposed to be National Grammar Day. So we checked a bunch of breathless-fanboy message boards, and no, it didn’t appear to be.”


Triangle


The Sports Curmudgeon (aka Jack Finarelli) was at his best earlier this week after the Washington Football Team announced that it is replacing its cheerleading squad with a co-ed dance team. . . . Remember that the curmudgeonly one lives in the Washinton, D.C., area, and that he has referred to the team as the WTFs since the moment the organization dropped its previous nickname. . . .

“I know,” he wrote about the co-ed dance team announcement. “It is enough to take your breath away.”

He continued: “That announcement is about as important as nose hairs on a statue; cheerleaders for NFL teams are worthless and co-ed dance teams for NFL teams are no better.  At its absolute best, consider this announcement by the team — and obliquely by the NFL — as a means to divert attention to the fact that after 8 months of ‘investigating,’ there are no findings regarding sexual harassment and a ‘toxic work environment’ for female cheerleaders there.”

You are able to find his entire thoughts on all of this right here.



The WHL and the AJHL announced their latest virus-testing results on Friday. . . . The WHL was clean through 602 tests for the period from Feb. 27 through March 5. That involved 428 tests on the seven teams in the Regina hub and another 159 for the five Alberta teams. . . . The five Saskatchewan and two Manitoba teams in Regina had each player and staff member tested twice — once upon arrival and again after quarantine. As a result of all tests being negatives, teams were cleared to start on-ice work on Friday. . . . Meanwhile, the AJHL ran 385 tests through 13 teams without a positive test among players and staff. Everyone will be tested once more before games begin on March 12.



The Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League announced Saturday that it has suspended play for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. “Our decision reflects the uncertain timeline and lack of direction from Public Health with respect to game play,” the league said in a news release that carries the signature of Levi A. Taylor, its commissioner. . . . On the heels of that announcement, the Manitoba Female Hockey League (U18 AAA) cancelled its regular season and playoffs.


Goat


Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune with something worth thinking about: “Players hate going to the NBA All-Star Game — as they should — and get upset when they’re not invited.”


Curlers got through the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the Canadian women’s championship without any issues in a bubble in Calgary. The Tim Hortons Brier for the Canadian men’s championship started on Friday. . . . Earlier in the day, it was announced that the LGT world women’s championship will be played in the same bubble with 14 teams competing from April 30 through May 9. This is a big event because the top six finishers qualify for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. . . . That same Calgary bubble will be home to the Home Hardware Canadian mixed doubles championship, and the BKT Tires/OK Tire world men’s championship, and two Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events.


There is smoke coming out of Seattle and it has to do with whether QB Russell Wilson wants to leave the Seahawks. LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans, went so far as to make a pitch on behalf of her Saints. . . . That elicited this response form Jenny Durkan, Seattle’s mayor, who tweeted: ““I love you Mayor, but keep your eyes off @DangeRussWilson. His home is Seattle. #GoHawks. And so you know, Seattle is in the market for a @NBA team. Don’t make me go there.”


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Kyle Chipchura, who played in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders (2003-06), is getting into the coaching game. He has joined the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 prep team as an assistant coach for 2021-22. Chipchura, 35, was the first overall pick in the WHL’s 2001 bantam draft. He went on to play 481 regular-season NHL games and was in the KHL for the past four seasons (2016-20). . . . Brayden Toma is the new head coach of the U15 prep team. He has been at the academy since the 2017-18 season.


Sheep

Dietrich leaves quite a legacy; ex-Wheat Kings captain dies at 59 . . . Byram fitting right in with Avalanche

Don Dietrich, a former defenceman with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings (1978-81) who went on to a pro career, died on Tuesday morning. From Deloraine, Man., and proud of it, he was 59.

He is survived by his wife Nadine and three sons — Tristan, Jake and Nick. The latter two, like their Dad, played in the WHL.

Tristan posted Tuesday morning on the Facebook tribute page that they recently started to honour their husband and father:

“We are sad to announce that Don, Dad, Dins, Beaker passed away this morning peacefully. He fought hard til the end. The ‘I Can’ in him stayed true right til the end.

“If ever having a hard day, remember it can always be worse. A bad day doing something you love is still better than a good day doing something you don’t. Keep your toes up ice! The golden rule must always be followed. Get the most out of life by finding out what you can do for others. Take a second to look at the man in the mirror. Be true to your self. Take ownership. Find a way to win.

“Don made sure he passed on lessons so he could live on in all of us. We love him. Will see him on the other side . . . just not yet . . . not yet.”

It has been almost five years since Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote a terrific piece about Don after a Molson Canadian promotion resulted in his being part of a group that got to play hockey on a frozen lake in the mountains near Invermere.

Dietrich, who was battling Parkinson’s disease and then was diagnosed with cancer, later told Turner: “I’ll put it to you this way. If there’s a heaven on Earth, I’ve been there.”

Turner’s story is right here.

If you paid any attention to the Don Dietrich tribute page over the past couple of weeks, it became readily apparent that Don had a positive impact on the lives of a whole lot of people.

There can be no doubt that he left this world a much better place today than it was when he first made his presence heard.

Sleep well, old friend. You were one of a kind. Finally, the pain is gone.


Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has taken a look at the WHL’s plans to get WHL2players back on the ice, with a particular focus on the five teams in the U.S. Division. . . . Those five teams are scheduled to begin games on March 19, with all games in Everett or Kent, and with the Portland Winterhawks practising in Vancouver, Wash. . . . At one point, Baker writes: “I’m told not all U.S. Division teams favored playing, which isn’t surprising given risks to players, aged 16-20, paid only nominal ‘stipends.’ There’s no TV revenue at stake and gate-driven WHL squads will lose a bundle by taking the ice.” . . . Officials with the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds told Baker that “their motivation is showcasing and developing players for NHL careers.” That, of course, is what everyone is saying. . . . According to Baker, the Silvertips will have their players in a bubble — “most likely in currently empty dormitories at Everett Community College.” The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, will have their players with billets. . . . As Baker writes, “We’ll see how effective one ‘bubble’ team is when playing others mingling daily with nonquarantined people.” . . . Baker’s complete story is right here.

——

Meanwhile, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, held an in-person briefing on Tuesday. Asked when the WHL’s B.C. Division will be able to get its five teams playing again, according to Liza Yuzda of News 1130, she said that health officials “haven’t received an updated proposal in the last few weeks,” adding that they would be “happy to look at it.” . . . She also said that if the province continues on its present trajectory, she would hope for games in March or April.


The NHL announced a number of schedule changes on Tuesday, but also had another postponement on its hands. For the second night in a row, it had to postpone a game between the Nashville Predators and host Dallas Stars because of power-related issues in Texas all due to the inclement weather. . . . Former Lethbridge Hurricanes D Calen Addison made his NHL debut on Tuesday night as the Minnesota Wild played its first game since Feb. 2 because of protocols. The Wild dropped a 4-0 decision to the Kings in Los Angeles. . . .

The NHL had 22 players on its COVID-19 protocol list on Tuesday, with seven of them from the Philadelphia Flyers, who last played on Feb. 7 and are scheduled to play the visiting New York Rangers on Thursday. The Flyers, with seven players on the protocol list, practised on Tuesday after being off for a week. However, they had only 14 skaters, four of them from the taxi squad, and two goaltenders available.


News


The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs have had four players test positive and now have had four games postponed, including Tuesday game against the host Detroit Pistons. . . . The Spurs remain in quarantine in Charlotte, N.C., since playing the Hornets there on Sunday. . . . The Spurs were to have played road games against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the New York Knicks on Saturday and the Indiana Pacers on Monday. . . .

Due to contact tracing, the Hornets’ next two games have been scrubbed. They were to have played at home against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday and the Denver Nuggets on Friday. . . . The NBA now has postponed 29 games for virus-related issues.


I have received a query from a WHL fan who has in his possession a black New Westminster Bruins sweater (No.22) from 1977-78 or 1978-79. He doesn’t know who wore it, although he wonders if it may have been Don Werbeniuk. . . . If you are able to help with some ID, please email me at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.


Dear hockey gods: We really, really need a best-of-seven series — a best-of- nine would be better — between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. Their game in Vegas on Tuesday, especially the third period, was hockey as art, even without fans. . . . D Bowen Byram, 19, made the play that led to Colorado’s winning goal late in the third period of a 3-2 victory. The former Vancouver Giants star played 25:03 last night, after going 23:07 in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Golden Knights. The Avalanche is without three defencemen — Cale Makar, Erik Johnson and Samuel Girard — but hasn’t missed a beat with Byram back there.


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 10:44 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,298 have died from coronavirus; 832,375 have tested positive.

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, Monday, 10:44 p.m. PT — United States: 486,321 have died from coronavirus . . . 27,692,967 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.

——

NBC Montana — State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman announced his resignation from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Thursday in a letter to new Director Adam Meier. . . . The announcement came one day after Gov. Greg Gianforte announced plans to lift the state’s mask mandate, which went into effect Friday.


Panel


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Troy Gillard will be the interim play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels for the approaching 24-game developmental season. He takes over from Cam Moon, now the radio voice of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Gillard, a familiar media face in Red Deer since 2006, has been the host of Rebels broadcasts since 2011. He will be joined on home games by veteran analyst Mike Moller. . . . You may recall reading there last week about the travels of former WHL star goaltender Taran Kozun. Well, add another chapter because he was released by the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears on Tuesday.


Diet

Tough COVID-19 day for NHL . . . WHL close to Saskatchewan return? . . . NLL gives up on having spring season

The NHL had a rough day on Wednesday as COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc with American teams.

The latest team to feel its bite is the Minnesota Wild, which has had its games NHLpostponed at least through Tuesday after adding five players to the COVID protocol list. Those five players — F Nick Bjugstad, F Nick Bonino, F Joel Eriksson Ek, F Marcus Johansson and D Jared Spurgeon — all played in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. . . . The Wild had put F Marcus Foligno on the list prior to Tuesday’s game. . . . The teams were scheduled to meet again on Thursday, but it will be the 18th game postponed this season which is barely three weeks old. . . . The Avalanche put F Tyson Jost on the COVID list on Wednesday. So a lot of eyes are watching the Avalanche as things move forward. . . .

As of Wednesday evening, the COVID protocol list included 40 players, 17 of them from the New Jersey Devils. They added three more players to the list yesterday. . . .

The Vegas Golden Knights returned to the practice ice on Wednesday morning, but head coach Pete DeBoer and assistants Ryan Craig and Ryan McGill weren’t there. Neither was D Alex Pietrangelo, who is on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. . . . The Knights, who haven’t played since Jan. 26, are scheduled to return Friday against the visiting Los Angeles Kings.


——


The QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Victoriaville Tigres have been put qmjhlnewinto 14-day quarantines, thus bringing to an end the four-team “protected environment” games that were being played in Chicoutimi. . . . The Tigres have experienced four positive tests so all players and staff are in quarantine. The Sagueneens had to follow suit having last played the Tigres. . . . The other two teams in the bubble — the Val-d’Or Foreurs and Gatineau Olympiques — met last night, instead of on Feb. 7 as had been scheduled, and the other games were postponed.


Conspiracy


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News — As of 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 786,419 cases of COVID-19, with 49,562 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 20,215.

Public Health Agency of Canada, Wednesday, 4 p.m. PT —789,651 cases; 48,221 active; 20,355 deaths. 

CNN, Tuesday, 1:59 p.m. PT — 446,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

CNN, Wednesday, 6:14 p.m. PT 450,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

The National Lacrosse League announced Wednesday that it has given on plans to hold a shortened season this spring “due to uncertainties arising from the ongoing pandemic.” The league said it now will “move to start a traditional season in the fall of this year.” . . . In a news release, Nick Sakiewicz, the NLL commissioner, said: “We have gone through many scenarios, including playing a bubble season in Canada in April, but the logistical challenges, including the recently announced tighter travel and quarantine restrictions across the Canadian border have required us to pivot. We have decided to focus on playing a full season in our markets, starting in the fall of this year.” . . .

Hockey Calgary has cancelled the remainder of what it called its “traditional hockey season,” effective Feb. 3. It says it will focus on providing development. . . .

The American Collegiate Hockey Association has cancelled its 2021 national championship events for men’s Division 3 and women’s Division 2 due to the pandemic. . . . Craig Barnett, the ACHA’s executive director, said in a news release: “While we had hoped to have Nationals for both the M3 and W2 divisions this season, there simply are not enough teams playing at each level in the midst of the pandemic to warrant having a Nationals event.” . . . Brandon’s Assiniboine Community College Cougars play in the ACHA. . . .

From CBC Sports’ The Buzzer, by Jesse Campigotto: “All of (Thursday’s) Australian Open tuneup matches were cancelled. A worker at a hotel in Melbourne where some 600 players and support staff are quarantining tested positive for the coronavirus. So play was suspended for at least a day at the six warmup events currently taking place ahead of the Feb. 8-21 Grand Slam. Everyone is being tested before organizers decide what to do next.” . . .

B.C. School Sports has cancelled its 2021 winter season tournaments. The move was made official in a memo that went out to schools earlier this week. That means no provincial basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre this spring.


Child


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Tex

Lori Sopotyk: ‘They didn’t sugarcoat anything and told him he would never walk again’ . . . Joseph wants semi driver deported . . . Virus hits Vegas coaching staff


“They didn’t sugarcoat anything and told him he would never walk again,” Lori Sopotyk told Mart Hastings of Kamloops This Week on Tuesday. “He’s paralyzed from the belly button down and it’s a long, long journey ahead for all of us. That was the first thing out of his mouth, his hockey, that he would never skate again. And he felt like he had let everyone down.” . . . Lori was referring to Kyrell, her 19-year-old son, who was injured in a snowboarding accident near North Battleford, Sask., on Friday and is in a Saskatoon hospital. He played the last two seasons (2018-20) with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. . . . Hastings’ complete story is right here. . . .

A GoFundMe page, launched by Kathleen Zary, the mother of Blazers F Connor Zary, has surpassed $160,000. It is right here should you wish to donate.


Chris Joseph, a former WHL/NHL defenceman, and his wife, Andrea, lost their son, Jaxon, in the accident that occurred almost three years ago when a semi-trailer pulled out onto a Saskatchewan highway in front of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus. But unlike Scott Thomas, who also lost a son in the accident, Joseph doesn’t want Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to be allowed to remain in Canada whenever he is freed from jail. Thomas, whose son, Evan, died in the crash, has written a letter in support of Sidhu’s plea to avoid deportation. . . . “As much as I can admire someone who finds that forgiveness,” Joseph told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, “I personally don’t have it yet, don’t know if I’ll ever get it to be quite honest. Everyone’s forgiveness journey is their own journey. I just can’t understand why you cannot forgive while he’s on a plane back to India.” . . . One thing that Joseph and Thomas can agree on, meanwhile, is the need for a serious upgrade to some of the rules and regulations around Canada’s trucking industry. . . . Campbell’s complete piece is right here.


Just wondering, but what have you accomplished during this pandemic? Trent Miner, a goaltender with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, has been studying and working towards a private pilot’s licence. “I always wanted to do this,” Miner, 19, told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun, “but obviously didn’t have any time to get into it until this summer.” . . . Miner started the process by taking lessons at the Brandon Flight Centre in May. Now the only thing standing between him and his licence is a written exam. . . . These days, Miner is in camp with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. . . . Bergson’s story is right here.


Here’s a snippet of the Tuesday morning post from Jack Finarelli (aka The Sports Curmudgeon):

“If 2021 were destined to be a ‘normal sports year’ teams would be setting up facilities in Florida and Arizona for the onset of spring training about now. Instead, there are reports this morning that Arizona officials have sent a letter to MLB asking for a delay in the start of spring training there because of the high rate of COVID infections in Maricopa County. The report I read in the Washington Post said that the officials there do not have the authority to order such a delay, meaning this could evolve into a negotiation with MLB. Unfortunately, any negotiation with MLB will have to involve the MLBPA as well; history tells us that those two entities have difficulty agreeing on even basic things like Tuesdays always following Mondays.”

You are able to catch all of his musings at sportscurmudgeon.com.


The latest 31 Thoughts from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman includes lots on the weekend deal between the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets, and also some interesting stuff with former Everett Silvertips D Shaun Heshka. It’s all right here.


With one member of the Vegas Golden Knights’ coaching staff having reportedly tested positive, the NHL team had to sideline all of its coaches, at least for Tuesday night’s game against the visiting St. Louis Blues. As a result, Kelly McCrimmon, the former owner/general manager/head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, made his NHL coaching debut. He is the Golden Knights’ general manager. . . . On the bench with McCrimmon were Manny Viveiros, a former WHL coach and player who is the head coach of the team’s AHL franchise, the Henderson Silver Knights; Jamie Heward, a former WHL player and coach who is an assistant coach with Henderson; and former NHL player Joel Ward, also an assistant in Henderson. . . . The Blues won the game, 5-4 in a shootout. The Golden Knights hit four posts in regulation, one in OT and another in the shootout. . . . F Brayden Schenn, who spent three seasons (2007-10) with McCrimmon’s Wheat Kings, scored the shootout winner. . . . The Golden Knights’ coaching staff comprises head coach Peter DeBoer; assistants Ryan Craig, Ryan McGill and Steve Spott; goaltending coach Mike Rosati; and video coach Tommy Cruz.


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News — Anyone entering Manitoba, including people coming from Western Canada, will have to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday. . . . The travel restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans.

CBC News — Sask. extends public health orders as daily death toll reaches new high. The measures will remain in effect until Feb. 19. They were set to expire on Jan. 29.

CBC News — Saskatchewan saw its deadliest day of the pandemic, with a record-high 14 fatalities reported on Tuesday. The previous record came on Dec. 21, when 13 people died after being diagnosed with the virus. The province has now reported 268 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic came to the province. Of those, 115 deaths have happened in 2021.

If you’re wondering how the NCAA men’s basketball season is going, check out this piece right here by Ryan Young of yahoo!sports.

The New York Times — The coronavirus death toll in Britain surpassed 100,000 on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he accepted responsibility as fatality rates continue to soar. “I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost,” he said.

AFP News Agency, Tuesday, 1:39 p.m. PT — Global coronavirus cases pass 100 million mark, AFP tally shows.

Ron Johnson, who got into five games with the Montreal Expos in 1984, has died in Tennessee from complications related to COVID-19. He was 64. Johnson spent 25 seasons as a minor league manager, most recently with the Triple-A Norfolk Admirals, who are affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.

Sekou Smith, who worked as an analyst for NBA TV, died Tuesday after contracting COVID-19. He was 48.


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: The ECHL is expected to announce today (Wednesday) that it will have a franchise in Savannah, Ga., in time for the 2022-23 season. The team will play out of the Savannah Arena, a facility that is under construction.

Former WHL goaltender dies at 64 . . . Recchi stays in NHL . . . Kamloops gets new baseball team


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News posted an interesting piece on Tuesday involving F Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In it, Campbell explained how the Lightning came to draft Point and how Al Murray, the organization’s director of amateur scouting, led the charge. It’s great to see a veteran scout like Murray, who is from Regina, get some acknowledgement. . . . Campbell’s piece is right here.

On Wednesday, Campbell wrote about the Vegas Golden Knights and how George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon were able to shape an expansion into a Stanley Cup contender is such a short period of time. . . . They certainly have done that, and it should be said that they got a considerable amount of help from Vaughn Karpan, their director of player personnel. . . . Karpan, a native of The Pas, Man., and Murray have one thing in common — they both are quiet men who love to work in the shadows. Oh, and one other thing — they may be the best in their field. . . . Campbell’s piece on Vegas is right here.


Plasma


Loosely translating the above tweet: Each of the Canadian major junior teams must pay $266,667 as its share of the settlement of the class-action lawsuit that the CHL decided to settle for $30 million earlier in the summer. The QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar are owned by their respective cities, so the citizens will pay the bill via their municipal taxes.


Blaine Peterson, a former WHL goaltender who played with the Brandon Wheat Kings and New Westminster Bruins, died suddenly on Sept. 3. He was 64 and living in Stonewall, Man. Peterson’s death came less than a month after he was profiled by Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun as part of his excellent series on former Wheat Kings. . . . Peterson is survived by his partner Paulette and two adult children — Teague and Kael. . . . Peterson was with the Bruins for two Memorial Cup tournaments, losing in the 1976 final and winning it all in 1977. . . . He was a real contributor to minor hockey, coaching in Stonewall and doing a stint as president of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League. . . . In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba. . . . There won’t be a formal funeral service, but a celebration of life is to be held at a later date. . . . There is an obituary available right here.


TP

COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

You will recall that Canadian OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs opted out of the NFL’s 2020 season a while back. During the pandemic, the graduate of McGill U’s medical school has been working as an orderly at a long-term care facility near Montreal. From Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., he is planning to take online classes from Harvard U’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. . . . Julian MacKenzie of The Canadian Press has more right here. . . .

Louisiana Tech and Baylor had to postpone their football game that was set for Saturday. Why? Because Louisiana Tech had 38 players test positive in the days following Hurricane Laura. . . . The game was to have been Fox-TV’s first Big Noon game of the season, but now has been replaced by Arkansas State-Kansas State. . . .

Australian tennis star Ash Barty, ranked No. 1 in the world, has opted out of the French Open, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 27. She is the tournament’s defending champion. She also chose not to play in the U.S. Open because of concerns about COVID-19. . . .

The U of Lethbridge has suspended its women’s soccer program after it was found to be violating some pandemic-related restrictions. With Canada West having cancelled the fall season, teams still are being allowed to practice, but they are to do it in cohorts. The women’s team was allowing players who were from outside to take part in practice sessions. . . . Justin Goulet of lethbridgenewsnow.com has more right here. . . .

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which covers more than 500 high schools, has postponed football, volleyball and cheer seasons until March.


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If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Mark Recchi, one of five owners of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, is back in the NHL after a rather brief absence. Dumped as an assistant coach by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Aug. 12, he has joined the New Jersey Devils in the same role. The Devils gave Recchi a three-year contract. He had been with the Penguins for six seasons — three as development coach and the past three as assistant coach. . . . The BCHL’s Merritt Centennials have signed F Dylan Sydor, 17, whose father Darryl is a former WHL/NHL defenceman who also is a co-owner with the Blazers. Last season, Dylan had 17 goals and 20 assists in 40 games with the U-18 Thompson Blazers, who play out of Kamloops. . . . The Red Deer Rebels’ 15-year lease with Westerner Park, which operates the Centrium, was to have expired this year. Before it got to that, the two parties agreed on a seven-year lease. . . . Baseball’s West Coast League unveiled its newest franchise on Wednesday. The Kamloops NorthPaws will begin play in 2021 — Opening Day is set for June 4 — and it’ll be a 54-game regular season. The WBL is a short-season collegiate league. The NorthPaws are one of four Canadian teams, joining the Kelowna Falcons, Nanaimo NightOwls and Victoria HarbourCats. The NightOwls are another expansion team; they are owned by the group that operates the HarbourCats. The NorthPaws are owned by Norm Daley of the Kamloops accounting firm Daley & Company; Jon Pankuch, who owns a few Tim Hortons franchises; and Neal Perry of Westway Plumbing and Heating.


Video

McCrimmon sells Wheat Kings to local firm . . . Had been sole owner since 2000 . . . J&G has deep roots in Brandon

WheatKings

How will the Western Hockey League look without Kelly McCrimmon as a franchise owner?

That is the question today after McCrimmon sold the Brandon Wheat Kings to the J&G Group of Companies, a Brandon firm that is led by Jared Jacobson, who is the president and CEO. He will take over as the Wheat Kings’ governor, with McCrimmon staying involved as alternate governor.

The WHL’s board of governors has approved the sale, which is to close on Sept. 15.

“We believe this is the right decision,” McCrimmon said in a news release. “The game has been so good to my family, I am fortunate now to be part of a great organization in Las Vegas with the Knights, and it became apparent a succession plan was needed. I feel good for people in Brandon and western Manitoba that the Wheat Kings will be in great hands with Jared and will always be a big part of the City of Brandon.”

JaredJacobson
JARED JACOBSON

Jacobson was born and raised in Brandon and, according to the news release, “has been actively involved in the Jacobson & Greiner third generation family business from an early age. Through Jared’s leadership, determination and vision, the organization has seen spectacular growth, expanding to 32 companies, encompassing all areas of construction.”

McCrimmon, from Plenty, Sask., played two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings. He returned to the organization in 1988, bought one-third of the franchise from Bob Cornell in 1992, and has been the sole owner since 2000.

However, McCrimmon, now 59, signed with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights as assistant general manager on Aug. 2, 2016. Then, on May 2, 2019, he was named general manager.

After dealing with the media and talking about the sale of the Wheat Kings earlier Tuesday, he spent the evening in the NHL’s Edmonton bubble watching the Golden Knights beat the Dallas Stars, 3-0, to even their Western Conference final, 1-1.

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Gary Lawless, a former Winnipeg Free Press sports writer who now is the Golden Knights’ Insider, has more on the sale of the Wheat Kings right here.

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If you haven’t seen this already, here’s a piece I wrote on McCrimmon for The Coaches Site five years ago . . .

Kelly
Longtime Brandon Wheat Kings owner Kelly McCrimmon has sold the WHL franchise. (Photo: nhl.com)

Kelly McCrimmon is the owner of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.

He also is the team’s governor, general manager and head coach.

He also is the head coach of the Canadian U-18 team that will play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.

Did we mention that McCrimmon is the chairman of the WHL’s competition committee?

Yes, the 54-year-old, who originally is from Plenty, Sask., wears a lot of hats, none of which has kept him from being successful.

He has been the Wheat Kings’ general manager since 1989 and now is acknowledged as perhaps the best GM in the WHL. With him at the helm, the Wheat Kings have become one of the WHL’s top franchises and best teams.

At the league level, McCrimmon has been a player for more than 20 years, serving on one committee or another, and always having a voice.

And let’s not forget that he is a married man with a family.

Whew! By now you are wondering where he finds the time. . . .

Well, the more you talk to McCrimmon, the more you realize that his working life is governed by all those clichés that you hear so much about . . . work ethic . . . surround yourself with good people and let them do their jobs . . . be true to yourself and always do what is best for the organization . . .

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Perhaps the most interesting thing about McCrimmon is that it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The original plan was for him to be a farmer.

“My plans,” he says, “were to get my degree and farm.”

After playing two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon headed for Ann Arbor, Mich., where he played four seasons with the Wolverines while he earned a business degree.

(Yes, McCrimmon played NCAA hockey after spending two seasons in the WHL, but that’s another story for another time.)

McCrimmon and his brother, Brad, had been raised on the family farm that is operated by their parents, Faye and Byron, near Plenty. The brothers, who were teammates on the 1978-79 Wheat Kings, even bought some land that was an extension of the family farm.

“I graduated in 1983,” Kelly says. “I was married after my sophomore year, and by the time I graduated we were expecting our first child. I went back to the farm, as planned.”

McCrimmon, who has two grown children with wife Terry, spent two years there, during which time he also dipped his toes into the coaching pool for the first time, playing and coaching with the Kerrobert Tigers of the Wild Goose Hockey League. He could do that during the winter months and go back to farming in the spring.

He found that he quite enjoyed the coaching side of things and it wasn’t long before he was coaching the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars. Still, he says, “I was fully committed to farming.”

What once had been a mixed farm (grain and cattle) now was grain only, which made it easier to spend winters with a hockey team. So spending two winters coaching in North Battleford, and another as head coach of the SJHL’s Lloydminster Lancers, didn’t compromise the farming side of things.

Then would come the offer that set him on the road that he still is on today.

The Wheat Kings were a franchise in transition, not finding much success on the ice or off. At this stage, they were being operated by the Keystone Centre. McCrimmon came on board and would spend half his time working on Keystone Centre affairs and the other half with the Wheat Kings.

“One year of doing that,” McCrimmon says, “and they approached me to be the general manager.”

McCrimmon pauses, then adds: “I was fully intending at that time to go back to farming and yet this meant moving away . . . and a deviation from the plans.”

Amazingly, he still considered himself a farmer, not a hockey man.

By now, Bob Cornell owned the Wheat Kings. Halfway through McCrimmon’s first season (1989-90) as general manager, head coach Doug Sauter fell ill with GuillainBarré syndrome. You guessed it . . . McCrimmon stepped in as head coach.

In hindsight, McCrimmon admits that this was his awakening as a WHL general manager. The Wheat Kings of that era would get caught up every season in the race just to make the playoffs; if they got there, they would more often than not lose out in the first round. In one 10-season stretch, they didn’t qualify on eight occasions. Rinse, repeat. . . .

With McCrimmon coaching, the Wheat Kings finished tied for the last playoff spot with the Swift Current Broncos, who won the play-in game, 5-4.

“Our team was primarily 19-year-old players and three 20-year-olds,” McCrimmon says. “Swift Current had six 16-year-olds.” In 1993, the Broncos would win the WHL title and play in the Memorial Cup.

After that experience, McCrimmon came to the realization that what the Wheat Kings were doing “was wrong.” So he began working towards changing the franchise’s thought process.

The next season, the Wheat Kings won 19 games. Then they put up 11 victories. The howling in Brandon wasn’t all coming from the Prairie wind.

Despite what was happening on the ice, Cornell recognized that McCrimmon was moving things in the right direction. So Cornell offered McCrimmon one-third ownership in the franchise, a move that meant a whole lot to the young GM.

“That was as much belief as he could possibly show in me after winning 19 and 11 games . . . he felt comfortable enough with me running his hockey club to want to make me a partner,” McCrimmon says. By 2000, McCrimmon would be the sole owner.

McCrimmon becoming a partner meant one other thing.

“Me being a farmer wasn’t going to happen,” he says.

That summer (1992), Bob Lowes signed on as head coach. He would stay for nine years, nine years in which McCrimmon says he never once thought of going back behind the bench.

In Lowes’ first season, the Wheat Kings won 43 games, lending credence to McCrimmon’s building plans. That season, Brandon set a CHL record for the largest improvement from one season to the next.

By the spring of 1995, the Wheat Kings were in the Memorial Cup, having lost to the host team, the Kamloops Blazers, in the WHL’s championship final. The Wheaties were there again a year later, this time as WHL champions. And they were in the WHL final again in 1998.

One thing would lead to another and Lowes would leave. Dean Clark would coach the team to two final fours. Mike Kelly would replace Clark, with McCrimmon taking over from Kelly in March of 2004. McCrimmon had made some moves to strengthen the lineup, such as acquiring Erik Christensen, the reigning WHL scoring champion. McCrimmon didn’t like the way things were going, so he stepped in. Brandon was ousted in the second round, but was in the WHL final the following season.

Since then, McCrimmon has been the head coach for nine of 11 years, the two-year gap coming when former player and assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk was in charge.

The Wheat Kings have missed the playoffs twice in the 23 seasons since that 11-victory winter. Yes, they’ve come a long way since missing the post-season eight times in 10 years.

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During his voyage, McCrimmon learned the importance of having good people behind the scenes. Not only is it important to have them there, it’s important to keep them.

“I am pretty hands on with some things,” McCrimmon says, and some people will say that is something of an understatement. But, he adds, “the people in key positions have complete autonomy to run the business.”

That was never more evident than more than 10 years ago when McCrimmon decided it was important that he get his Master of Business Administration (MBA).

In the two years that took, the team was in good hands on the ice with Clark in charge. The other key people were Al Macpherson, Rick Dillabough and Lyn Shannon.

Macpherson joined the Wheat Kings as a scout in 1986 and was promoted to director of player personnel in 1998, a position he filled until his retirement in the summer of 2013. He remains associated with the team as its senior advisor, while veteran WHL scout Wade Klippenstein is the director of scouting.

Dillabough now is the director of business operations and sponsorship. He has been with the franchise since 1990.

Shannon, an employee since 1991, handles the accounting side of things.

When McCrimmon was working toward his MBA through Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Macpherson ran the scouting, and Dillabough and Shannon handled the business/financial side. During that time, McCrimmon was confident things were in good hands.

It is important, McCrimmon says, “to keep people in place.”

Darren Ritchie, who played four seasons with the Wheat Kings (1991-95), has been an assistant coach for eight seasons. The other assistant, David Anning, a former MJHL player and coach, has been there for three seasons.

Because of the number of hats McCrimmon wears, he says his assistants have “more responsibility . . . a great deal of responsibility.”

With everything else on his plate, McCrimmon decided this spring that there was room for one more thing. So he now is head coach of Canada’s summer U-18 team. This will be his first time with a Canadian national team.

“I have always had a relationship with people at Hockey Canada,” says McCrimmon, adding that he has long scouted Hockey Canada camps, especially those of the U-17 variety. Another thing that pushed him in Hockey Canada’s direction is the presence of Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz, a long-time friend, as part of HC’s management group.

Also, don’t ever underestimate McCrimmon’s desire — it’s almost a need with him — to better himself. Working with the U-18 team gives him the opportunity to coach alongside Sheldon Keefe, the OHL’s coach of the year with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and Darren Rumble, a former Seattle Thunderbirds assistant coach who now is head coach of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats.

“It’s a good chance to work with good coaches,” McCrimmon says, pointing out that all three worked the benches of teams that got into the final four in each of their leagues. He talks of it being a “good challenge” in terms of “personal growth.”

As he puts it: “Responsibility is good for you in terms of growing. It was a good opportunity to pursue, and I know that age group well.”

The man, it’s fair to say, has never run from a challenge. As he says, “Coaching is a challenge . . . hosting the Memorial Cup is a challenge.”

Yes, McCrimmon was mostly responsible for the 2010 Memorial Cup having been played in Brandon, where it was a resounding success. In March 2011, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce honoured him with its President’s Award as the business person of the year.

“I enjoy everything I’ve done in hockey,” McCrimmon says. “I love scouting, building, developing.

“I work hard. I always have . . . and I manage my time well.”

A reporter’s mind flashes back to a bitterly cold winter’s night in Regina, more than 20 years ago. It was a Sunday, about 1 a.m. A Tim Hortons outlet on the east side was empty except for a couple having coffee, decaf you should know.

The front door opened and an icy blast blew in, bringing with it a man who was rubbing his hands together as he tried to shake off the cold.

Yes, it was McCrimmon. He had been scouting somewhere in the hinterlands of south-western Saskatchewan. He wanted a cup of coffee to get him started on the last leg of the trek.

As he got back in his vehicle, he was almost as close to Plenty as he was to the Wheat Kings’ office.

McCrimmon left the parking lot that morning and headed east towards Brandon. He was a hockey man, not a farmer.