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

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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.

Scattershooting on a Thursday evening while wondering if Regina is Queen City of Distracted Driving . . .

Scattershooting


A note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A pride of lions ate three poachers who broke into a South African game reserve to hunt rhinoceroses, Newsweek reported. This partial score just in: Lions 3, Raiders 0.”

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Here’s another report from Perry: “Heretofore doughy Phil Mickelson, via Twitter, after his sister posted a beach photo in which the golfer looks absolutely ripped: ‘FYI, those weird bumps on the side of my stomach we’ve never seen before, Doc called them obliques and said it’s nothing to worry about.’ ”



Las Vegas bookies have had the most early NFL action on the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns. That resulted in this from Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe: “There’s a reason they’ve been able to afford to build all those amazing resorts.”


Department of Pet Peeves — A couple of submissions from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon: 1. “People who refer to something as ‘very unique’ or ‘rather unique.’ Unique doesn’t take modifiers easily; something is either ‘unique’ or it is not. . . . 2. Imply’ and ‘infer’ aren’t synonyms and cannot be used interchangeably.


ParallelParking


Congrats to old friend Jim Swanson and the Victoria HarbourCats, who have led baseball’s West Coast League in attendance for a sixth straight season. The HarbourCats had 27 home games in 2019, and drew 62,400 fans for an average of 2,311 per game. Throw in five non-league games, an exhibition game and three playoff games and the total is 79,737. . . . Swanson, a long-time newspaper man before his life-long love affair with baseball took him to Victoria, is the HarbourCats’ managing partner and general manager.


It is embarrassing the way Canada’s two sports networks treat MLB fans . . .

On Monday night, TSN scheduled a doubleheader, with the second game to have started three hours after the first one began. Unfortunately for fans, both were ESPN games and ESPN telecasts never end in less than three hours. . . . Of course, TSN does have a bunch of channels — five of them in my house — so when the first game runs late you are free to wonder why the second game doesn’t start on another channel, like maybe the one that was showing Sports Centre? . . . Sorry, but I didn’t hang around for Yankees and Mariners, the second game, on Monday night. Instead, it was over to the Diamondbacks and Giants with Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, two broadcasters who get it right.

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One night later, it was Sportsnet’s turn. On this night, Yankees and Mariners were joined in progress at 8:05 p.m. PT, about an hour after the game had started. . . . There are eight Sportsnet channels on my package — the World Poker Tour was on two of them, Highlights of the Night was on one and Sportsnet Central was on five. . . . No sense treating baseball fans with a modicum of respect and putting the Yankees and Mariners on one of those eight channels at 7 p.m. PT. . . . On top of all that, Sportsnet showed Yankees-Mariners highlights before joining the game in progress at 8:05 p.m., with the New Yorkers leading, 5-0, in the top of the third. . . . Hey, Sporstnet, thanks for the poke in the eye. . . . Hey, Sportsnet, I went back to Twins at White Sox, then to Diamondbacks at Giants.


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ICYMI, Sportsnet dumped Nick Kypreos, John Shannon and Doug MacLean from its NHL coverage this week. Don’t worry, though, because Don Cherry still is there, as is Brian Burke. . . . Daren Millard, who was shown the door by Sportsnet last August, was named to the Vegas Golden Knights’ TV team on Thursday.


ICYMI Part 2 . . . Stu MacGregor, who lost his job as the Kamloops Blazers’ general manager after the WHL’s 2018-19 season, now is the Victoria Royals’ western senior regional scout. Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner, dumped MacGregor in a major reshuffling of deck chairs, and added him to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, his other toy, er, team. . . . MacGregor lasted one season with the Stars before moving on down the road.


Another WHL note . . . Each August, Alan Caldwell compiles, or attempts to compile, training camp rosters, puts them on spreadsheets, and makes them available to fans. On top of that, he adds and deletes as teams make player moves. . . . After the Kelowna Rockets informed him earlier this week that they wouldn’t be making a roster available, someone in the Little Apple took photos of a roster— it included last names only — that was posted in the arena and got them to Caldwell. He then was able to put together the Rockets roster that is right here. . . . The surprising thing about all of this is that there was someone in the arena in Kelowna who apparently isn’t part of Bruce Hamilton’s choir.

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Why would a WHL team choose not to release a training camp roster? Other than shortsightedness, who knows? . . . There was a time, more than 20 years ago, when WHL teams sometimes had players in camp under assumed names — hello, Bob Bell! hey there, Connor McRae! — supposedly to allow said players to try to protect their NCAA eligibility. Those days are over, though, so who knows what they’re afraid of in Kelowna? . . . It is interesting, though, that the WHL has established standards for the arenas in which its teams play — resulting in some cities having to purchase and install new boards, glass and score clocks with video boards — but doesn’t have any standards for something as simple as the releasing of training camp rosters.


Hey, Regina . . . Do the math: 910 x $280 is a lot of dough. My wife, Dorothy, had a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013. She is getting ready to take part in her sixth Kidney Walk. Had each of you donated $100 to support her — you can do so right here — you would have saved yourself a lot of money and gotten an income tax receipt. . . . BTW, when did Reginans become wealthy enough to throw away money in this fashion? . . . I wonder if Regina’s distracted drivers are aware that there isn’t a prize for No. 1,000?


Royals get goalie from Portland. . . . More bantam draft odds and ends. . . . McCrimmon an NHL GM and a Hall of Famer


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Part II: More trades and odds and ends from the WHL’s bantam draft. . . .

The Portland Winterhawks appeared to clear up a logjam at the goaltender position, Portlandwhile the Victoria Royals have begun life after Griffen Outhouse. . . . The Winterhawks dealt G Shane Farkas, who is to turn 20 on Dec. 1, and a 2019 fifth-round bantam draft pick to the Royals for a fourth-round pick in 2019 and a conditional selection that could end up being in the fourth round in 2020. . . . The 2019 fourth-rounder that the Winterhawks acquired actually originated with them; it went to Victoria in a deal for D Jared Freadrich last summer. . . . The deal leaves Portland with five 20-year-olds on its roster, with F Lane Gilliss, F Jake Gricius, F Josh Paterson and D Matthew Quigley the others. . . .

Farkas, from Penticton, B.C., appeared in 84 games over three seasons with Portland. VictoriaRoyalsThis season, he finished 30-12-6, 2.71, .906 in 50 regular-season appearances. . . . His departure leaves the Winterhawks’ depth chart with Joel Hofer, who will be 19 on July 30, and Dante Giannuzzi, who is to turn 17 on Sept. 3, at the top of the goaltending section. . . .

Outhouse, who was so outstanding in goal for the Royals, has completed his junior eligibility. Farkas and sophomore Brock Gould, 18, are one-two on the Royals’ depth chart, at least for now. . . . The Royals now have six 20-year-olds on their roster — Farkas, F D-Jay Jerome, Belarusian F Igor Martynov, F Tanner Sidaway, D Jameson Murray and D Jake Kustra.


The Swift Current Broncos have acquired D Wyatt Wilson from the Lethbridge SCBroncosHurricanes for F Alex Thacker. . . . Wilson, from Swift Current, will turn 16 on Oct. 11. He was a sixth-round pick by Lethbridge in the 2018 bantam draft. This season, he had six goals and 17 assists in 36 games with the elite 15s at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C. . . . Thacker, 17, is from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. This season, he had 10 goals and 27 assists in 34 games as he captained the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan Rangers. He also had one assist in four games with the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines, and was pointless in two games with Swift Current. The Broncos had selected him in the sixth round of the 2017 bantam draft.


Lethbridge also made a deal with the Prince George Cougars, landing D Tyson Phare in LethbridgePrinceGeorgeexchange for F Fischer O’Brien. . . . Phare, 17, was the 18th-overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft. From Maple Ridge, B.C., he was pointless in 14 games with the Cougars this season. He also had a goal and nine assists in eight games with the prep team at the Delta Hockey Academy, and was pointless in two games with the junior B Ridge Meadow Flames. . . . O’Brien, 16, is from Prince George. Lethbridge picked him in the fifth round of the 2018 bantam draft. Fischer had two goals and five assists in 40 games with the Cariboo Cougars, who won the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League title. His brother, Brogan, played three seasons (2015-18) with the WHL’s Cougars and now is at Carleton U in Ottawa.


JUST NOTES: The Portland Winterhawks selected F Marek Hejduk in the ninth round. He played this season with the bantam AAA Colorado Thunderbirds, scoring seven goals and adding nine assists in 13 games. . . . Six picks later, the Everett Silvertips grabbed D David Hejduk, Marek’s twin brother. David had one goal and one assists in 13 games with the Thunderbirds. . . . They are the sons of former NHL F Milan Hejduk. . . .

In the 10th round, the Edmonton Oil Kings landed F Cade Littler of East Wenatchee, Wash. He played this season with the bantam AAA San Jose Jr. Sharks. His father, Bliss, is a long-time junior coach. He has been with the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild for seven seasons, the last six as general manager and head coach. . . .

In the fourth round, the Seattle Thunderbirds took F Connor Gourley of Calgary. He had 36 goals and 39 assists in 33 games with the bantam AAA Calgary Bisons. His brother Jarrod, who will turn 20 on June 29, was a third-round pick by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2014 bantam draft. A defenceman, he chose to go to Arizona State U where he just completed his first season with the Sun Devils. . . .

The Medicine Hat Tigers, picking 12th overall, took F Oasis Wiesblatt of Calgary. He had 19 goals and 36 assists in 28 games with the bantam AAA Calgary Bisons. . . . His brother Orca, who will turn 19 on June 2, got into 12 games with the Calgary Hitmen this season, after playing 49 with them last season. He now is with the MJHL-champion Portage Terriers. . . . Another brother, 20-year-old Ocean, also is with the Terriers, while Ozzy, 17, is in his first season with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. . . . Google is your friend, so search out a story on the boys and their mother, who is deaf and a really wonderful story. . . .

The Hitmen selected F Mason Finley of Kelowna in the fifth round. His brother, Jack, just finished his freshman season with the Spokane Chiefs. Their father, Jeff, played three seasons (1984-87) with the Portland Winterhawks and now is in his 10th season as a scout with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, the last six as the team’s chief amateur scout. . . .

The Victoria Royals landed twin brothers who just happen to be from, yes, Victoria. . . . They took D Jason Spizawka with the 19th-overall selection then added his twin, Ryan, in the seventh round. . . . Both boys played at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., this season. . . .

The Regina Pats picked D Layton Feist with the draft’s 17th-overall selection. From Dawson Creek, B.C., he is the younger brother of Pats D Tyson Feist. . . .

In the second round, the Prince Albert Raiders took D Graydon Gotaas, who is from Camrose, Alta., and played this season with the bantam AAA Sherwood Park, Alta., Flyers. . . . His uncle, Steve Gotaas, played four seasons (1983-87) with the Raiders. . . .

If you know of any other hockey bloodlines from the draft or have any tidbits you would like to share, email Taking Note at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.


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Kelly McCrimmon, who owns the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, will take over as general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on Sept. 1. That means that McCrimmon, who has been the Golden Knights’ assistant GM, won’t be going to Edmonton, where the Oilers had an interest in him, or to the expansion franchise in Seattle, which also is believed to have bene interested in his services.

Meanwhile, McCrimmon also found out on Thursday that he will be part of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2019. . . . McCrimmon has served the Wheat Kings as a player, coach, general manager, owner and governor. . . . Going into the hall this year as players will be Bob Fitchner, Trevor Kidd, Marty Murray and Terry Yake, all of whom played for the Wheat Kings, along with Larry Bolonchuk and Susanna Yuen. . . . Builders to be inducted are McCrimmon and Barry Shenkarow. . . . Rob Haithwaite will go into the officials section, while the media wing will welcome Bob Holliday. . . . The 1957-58 St. Boniface Canadians, 1965-66 Flin Flon Warriors and 1972-73 St. Boniface Mohawks will be inducted in the team category. . . . Going into the veterans’ category will be Johnny Sheppard as a player and the 1929 Elmwood Millionaires. . . . The inductions will take place at Canad Inns Polo Park in Winnipeg on Oct. 5. . . . Bios of the inductees are available right here.


The BCHL’s Merritt Centennials made it official Thursday — they have signed Barry Wolff as their new general manager and head coach. Wolff, who spent this season as GM/head coach with the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders, will replace Joe Martin, who now is the GM/head coach of the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs. . . . With Wolff behind the bench, the Stampeders lost the MJHL final to the Portage Terriers, dropping Game 7 in OT.


Eric Ditto has been the head coach of the junior B Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey League for four seasons. Now he also is the general manager. The Chiefs won 38 games this season as they set a PJHL single-season record with 77 points in a 40-game schedule. Ditto takes over as GM from Ryan Marushak, who had been in that position for four seasons.


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Vegas assigns goalie to Brandon . . . Blades add Labelle to front office . . . Storm brewing in Kamloops


MacBeth

D Keaton Ellerby (Kamloops, Moose Jaw, 2004-08) signed a one-year contract with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL). Last season, he had six assists in 42 games with Mora (Sweden, SHL).


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The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights have assigned Czech G Jiri Patera, 19, to the Brandon BrandonWKregularWheat Kings, which leaves them with three goaltenders on their roster. . . . Patera, 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, was selected by Vegas in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL draft. He played last season with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. . . . With the CHL lifting its ban on import goaltenders prior to its 2018 import draft, the Wheat Kings selected Patera. . . . Of course, Kelly McCrimmon, the Golden Knights’ assistant general manager, owns the Wheat Kings. . . . Also on Brandon’s roster are veteran Dylan Myskiw, 19, and freshman Ethan Kruger, who will turn 17 on Sept. 27. Kruger, from Sherwood Park, Alta., was a fifth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . While the WHL website shows Patera as having been born on Feb. 16, 2000, he actually was born on Feb. 24, 1999.


The Saskatoon Blades have added Xavier Labelle, 18, to their front office as a hockey Saskatoonoperations assistant. Labelle played the past two seasons with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos and is a survivor of the April 6 bus crash. . . . From a Blades news release: “Following the accident, Xavier spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital recovering from his injuries, which included a fractured skull and concussion, internal bleeding, approximately 20 broken bones (including 13 in his spine), plus nerve damage affecting his legs and left arm.” . . . From Saskatoon, he continues to rehab in his hometown. . . . Labelle attended the Blades’ training camp on three occasions and also was on their protected list at one time.


The WHL has signed Zach Hodder as its manager, player development. According to a news release, he will be “responsible to lead the WHL player recruitment and development programs.” . . . From North Delta, B.C., Hodder, 25, played 128 WHL regular-season games over five seasons (2009-14), splitting time between the Vancouver Giants, Saskatoon Blades, Prince Albert Raiders, Medicine Hat Tigers and Moose Jaw Warriors. He went on to use his WHL education policy to attend BCIT and Royal Roads U.


If there is a bigger mess in hockey today than that involving the Kootenay International KamStormJunior Hockey League and the Kamloops Storm, well, I can’t imagine it. . . . “It’s a great city and it’s a great hockey market and it’s just a bit of a mess right now,” KIJHL president Larry Martel told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week.“All franchises go up and down. Right now, we’re in a low point in that city.” . . . This is a story that involves charges of tampering, $10,000 in fines, a one-year suspension to one individual, a head coach who has been suspended for 20 games, except, well, it doesn’t seem that he really is the head coach. . . . It seems that someone else was named the head coach so that he could take the hit instead of the real head coach. Got that?. . . . Oh, it’s all enough to give you a headache. . . . Check out Hastings’ complete story right here.


If you would like to support my wife, Dorothy, as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk — a walk, I should point out, that she is helping to organize — you may do so right here. Thank you!


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Vegas franchise has WHL off-ice flavour . . . WHLers brought golden touch to Golden Knights . . . Next up: Stanley Cup final

If you’ve stopped off at this site, it means you are a hockey fan. That being the case, I hope you are enjoying the story being written by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

On May 28, the Golden Knights, who are finishing up their first season, will begin play in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.

We all know that the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, and that the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been with us since 2000-01, have yet to win a VegasGKplayoff series. We could go on and on, but you get the point.

Yes, this is quite a story. In fact, it just may be the greatest story in team sports in my lifetime.

I often wonder how many professional athletes haven’t been able to enjoy much in the way of success because they never were able to get themselves into the right place at the time. Now I wonder how much of the Golden Knights’ success is due to so many players being able to be in the right place at the right time.

And who is responsible for putting those players into this situation?

When the final chapter is written on the Golden Knights’ first season, there definitely will be a WHL slant to it. Yes, there are a number of men with WHL ties working off the ice with Vegas, mostly in areas of player personnel and scouting.

What follows is a look at some of those with WHL ties, and you know they’re enjoying this run:

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Kelly McCrimmon, executive vice-president and assistant GM — McCrimmon, 57, knows hockey and he knows business, that’s why he’s such a good fit with Vegas. Under his ownership, the Brandon Wheat Kings became one of the CHL’s most-respected franchises. . . . While running the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon earned an MBA from Queen’s U in Kingston, Ont. . . . He came awfully close to joining the Toronto Maple Leafs as an assistant GM over the summer of 2015, but stayed with his Wheat Kings because he had put together a roster aiming at the WHL’s 2016 championship, which Brandon won. . . . He joined Vegas that summer. . . . Did you know: After playing two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon went on to the U of Michigan, where he played four seasons and was the Wolverines’ captain in the last one (1983-84).

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Murray Craven, senior vice-president — Craven, 53, played four seasons (1980-84) with his hometown Medicine Hat Tigers. He then went on to play 1,071 NHL games, spending time with Detroit, Philadelphia, Hartford, Vancouver, Chicago and San Jose. . . . Craven was named the Golden Knights’ senior vice-president on Aug. 18, 2016, after spending two years as an advisor to owner Bill Foley. . . . Craven and Foley were neighbours on Whitefish Lake in Montana and played golf together. . . . Craven oversaw such things as designing the dressing rooms in T-Mobile Arena and the building of the Golden Knights’ practice facility, and he also has done some pro scouting. . . . Did you know: Vegas GM George McPhee was an assistant GM in Vancouver when Craven played for the Canucks.

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Vaughn Karpan, director of player personnel — Karpan, 56, played 26 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 1979-80 — Kelly McCrimmon was a teammate — but is best known for playing four seasons with Canada’s national team. These days, he is widely respected as one of the premier talent evaluators in the game. . . . He scouted for Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona for 13 seasons (1992-2005), and was the director of amateur scouting for the last six of those. Karpan then spent 11 seasons with Montreal, working as an amateur scout (2005-10) before transitioning to pro scout (2010-15) and then director of professional scouting (2015-16). . . . He signed on with the Golden Knights and spent the past two seasons scouting the professional ranks. . . . This is the man with the golden eyes and an incredible feel for the game. Yes, you can bet that he had a whole lot to do with putting together the roster that is about to play for the Stanley Cup. . . . Did you know: Karpan represented Canada at two Olympic Winter Games — 1984 and 1988.

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Bob Lowes, assistant director of player personnel — Lowes, 55, played with the Prince Albert Raiders and Regina Pats (1982-84), captaining the Pats in his final season. He spent nine seasons (1992-2001) as the head coach of Kelly McCrimmon’s Brandon Wheat Kings and three with the Pats (2001-04). . . . From 2006-16, he scouted for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, serving as director of amateur scouting for the last two of those. . . . Like Karpan, Lowes spent 2016-17 doing pro scouting for Vegas. . . . Did you know: When Lowes was inducted into the U of Manitoba Bisons Hockey Hall of Fame in February, he was introduced by McCrimmon.

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Erin Ginnell, amateur scout — Ginnell, 49, played for five teams over two WHL seasons (1985-87). He skated for the New Westminster Bruins, Calgary Wranglers, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos. . . . He has been an NHL amateur scout since 2000-01, starting with the Columbus Blue Jackets for two seasons and one with the Colorado Avalanche. He was with the Florida Panthers for 13 seasons (2003-16), the last five as director of amateur scouting. He lost his job when the tall foreheads in Florida chose to clean house. (The Panthers, who haven’t won a playoff series since the spring of 1996, also fired Scott Luce, who had been the director of amateur scouting for eight seasons, the director of scouting for five and the director of player personnel for one. He now is the Golden Knights’ director of amateur scouting.) . . . Ginnell is the son of the late Pat Ginnell, who was a legendary coach, and the father of Kootenay Ice F Brad Ginnell. . . . Did you know: Following the crash of the Swift Current Broncos’ bus on Dec. 30, 1986, in which four players died, Erin was one of the players acquired by the Broncos to help get them through that season.

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Bruno Campese, amateur scout — Campese, 54, was a goaltender who played one season (1982-83) with the Portland Winter Hawks, who won the 1983 Memorial Cup. However, the Winter Hawks added G Mike Vernon from the Calgary Wranglers — teams could add a goaltender from another team back in the day — and Campese saw only 40 minutes of playing time. . . . He also played one season (1983-84) with the Kelowna Wings. . . . Campese spent one-plus seasons as the GM/head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, before stepping aside as coach. He then spent three seasons (2012-15) as the GM. . . . This is his first NHL scouting gig. . . . Did you know: Campese played in the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, as well as the 1993, 1994 and 1995 IIHF World Championship tournaments, with the Italian national team. He has dual Canadian/Italian citizenship.

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Kelly Kisio, pro scout — Kisio, 58, played two seasons with the Calgary Wranglers (1978-80) before going on to a lengthy pro career that ended after two seasons (1993-95) with the Calgary Flames. . . . He then spent 21 more seasons in the Flames’ organization, the last 18 of those with the Hitmen. At various times, he was the general manager, head coach, executive vice-president of hockey operations and, for the last three of those seasons, the president of hockey operations. Yes, it was a surprise to some that the Flames didn’t move him to the NHL side of things before losing him to Vegas. . . . His son, Brent, is the head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Did you know: Kelly played for the Swiss club HC Davos in 1982-83. In his second-last game there, Kisio recorded eight goals and two assists in a 19-7 victory over HC Lugano. Three days later, he joined the Detroit Red Wings.

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Jim McKenzie, pro scout — McKenzie, 48, played two WHL seasons (1986-88) with the Moose Jaw Warriors and one with the Victoria Cougars. He totalled 21 goals in 197 regular-season games before going on to an NHL career that featured 880 games, 48 goals and 1,739 penalty minutes. . . . He has a Stanley Cup ring from the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils. . . . In the NHL, he played for Hartford, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Anaheim, Washington, New Jersey and Nashville. . . . He joined the NHL’s Florida Panthers as a pro scout in 2013-14 and spent three seasons there. . . .  Did you know: McKenzie’s hometown is Gull Lake, Sask., which also is the hometown of Roger Aldag, perhaps the greatest offensive lineman in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ history.

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Ryan McGill, assistant coach — McGill, 49, played in the WHL with the Lethbridge Broncos, Swift Current Broncos and Medicine Hat Tigers (1985-89). . . . He won a Memorial Cup with the 1987-88 Tigers. . . . McGill’s playing career included 151 NHL games but was cut short by an eye injury. . . . He coached in the WHL with the Edmonton Ice and Kootenay Ice. McGill guided Kootenay to the 2002 Memorial Cup title. . . . He also has coached in the AHL and was on the Calgary Flames’ staff for two seasons (2009-11). . . . Before joining Vegas, McGill spent two seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. He was the OHL and CHL coach of the year for 2016-17. . . . Did you know: McGill has previous Knights coaching experience, having spent two seasons (2005-07) as the head coach of the AHL’s Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.

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Mike Kelly, assistant coach — Kelly, 58, spent one season (2003-04) in the WHL, as the Brandon Wheat Kings’ head coach. He was fired by Kelly McCrimmon on March 1, 2004, and McCrimmon, the general manager, took over as head coach. . . . Kelly also has coached in the OHL, QMJHL and the Canadian university ranks. He also worked as an assistant coach in the NHL, with the Vancouver Canucks (2006-08) and Florida Panthers. He was in his third season with the Panthers when he was fired on Nov. 27, 2016. At the same time, the Panthers dumped head coach Gerard Gallant, who now is the Golden Knights’ head coach. . . . Did you know: Kelly worked as an assistant coach under Gallant with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs (2010-12). They won the 2011 Memorial Cup.

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Ryan Craig, assistant coach — Craig, 36, played five seasons (1998-03) with the Brandon Wheat Kings and was the captain for the last two of those seasons. Obviously, he is well-connected with Kelly McCrimmon. . . . Craig’s pro career included 198 NHL games and 711 in the AHL, where he won a championship with the 2015-16 Lake Erie Monsters. . . . He retired after the 2016-17 season and was hired by the Golden Knights. . . . Did you know: Craig captained four AHL franchises — the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Norfolk Admirals, Springfield Falcons, and Lake Erie/Cleveland Monsters.

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Shane Hnidy, TV analyst — Hnidy, 42, split five WHL seasons — and 327 games — between the Swift Current Broncos and Prince Albert Raiders. A defenceman, he went on to a pro career that included 550 regular-season NHL games, along with stints in the ECHL, AHL and IHL. . . . Hnidy had been part of the Winnipeg Jets’ broadcast crew for six seasons before moving to Vegas. . . . Did you know: Hnidy won a Stanley Cup with the 2010-11 Boston Bruins, getting into three regular-season games and three more in the playoffs. He retired following that season.