The WHL, Part 5: There was tragedy, lots of movement and marshmallow punches . . .

Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years.  The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .

——

The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.

There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.

There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.

But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.

DougSauter

The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.

The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.

The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.

This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”

BryanMaxwell

Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.

Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.

In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.

There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.

bob cornell brandon wheat kings mvc
BOB CORNELL (Photo: Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame)

In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.

Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.

The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.

“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”

The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.

Broncos
When the Swift Current Broncos’ bus crashed on Dec. 30, 1986, the hockey world lost Chris Mantyka (left), Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger and Brent Ruff. (Photo: Swift Current Broncos)

Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.

EdChynoweth3
ED CHYNOWETH

“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”

John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”

There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”

Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”

Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.

“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”

As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.

And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.

Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.

On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.

On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.

BradHornung
BRAD HORNUNG (Photo: University of Regina)

Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.

Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”

Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.

As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.

Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.

April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.

And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.

The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.

EdStaniowski

John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with

Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.

And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.

The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.

“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.

Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.

“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”

That is exactly what happened.

There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.

On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.

Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”

Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.

On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”

Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.

GerryJames

With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.

On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”

One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.

On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.

For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.

Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.

JoeCelentano
JOE CELENTANO

The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.

On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.

On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.

The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.

The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.

On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.

The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.

Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.

“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”

In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.

Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”

On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”

Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.

TimSpeltz
TIM SPELTZ

In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.

Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.

The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.

Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.

A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.

Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.

On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.

Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.

It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.

“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”

On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.

Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”

Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”

There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.

The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.

On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.

Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.

There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.

The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.

Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.

 “This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”

TimTisdale

Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”

On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.

Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.

On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.

At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.

The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.

Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.

The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.

On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.

“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”

Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.

A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.

At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.

Kelly-McCrimmon
KELLY McCRIMMON (Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings)

On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.

There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.

On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”

The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.

Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”

Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.

On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.

Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.

Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.

On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.

The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”

JackShupe

The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.

On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.

There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”

DennisBeyak
DENNIS BEYAK

Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.

Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.

There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.

Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”

On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”

Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.

On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.

Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”

James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.

GerryJohansson
GERRY JOHANSSON

There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.

Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.

Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”

Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.

Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”

The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.

A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.

On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.

On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.

The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.

LorneFrey
LORNE FREY

On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.

Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.

One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.

—30—

The WHL, Part 3: Bruins’ dynasty ends, franchises on the move and more mayhem . . .

At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 3. . . .

——

The mid-1970s belonged to the Ernie McLean-coached New Westminster Bruins. They were the Western Canada Hockey League’s most-dominant team.

If you didn’t believe that, well, they would convince you of it. And they’d do that any way they felt like it.

ErnieMcLean
The legendary Ernie McLean. (Photo: The Coaches Site)

The Bruins ran their string of WCHL titles to four, and won the Memorial Cup the last two seasons, in 1976-77 and 1977-78. But by the time the 1980-81 season ended, the bloom was off the rose in New Westminster. Little did anyone know that it never would return.

Prior to the start of the 1976-77 season, the WCHL instituted a rule calling for an automatic game misconduct to any player who initiated a fight. Ironically, the first player stung was Brandon Wheat Kings starry centre Bill Derlago. He got the heave-ho after starting a scrap with Brian Schnitzler of the Saskatoon Blades in a season-opening 3-0 Brandon victory.

Two coaches felt WCHL president Ed Chynoweth’s wrath on Nov. 2. Ivan Prediger of the Kamloops Chiefs was suspended for 20 games, while Ken Hodge of the Portland Winter Hawks got 10 games. Prediger apparently struck Hodge during an altercation between the benches on Oct. 24.

LorneDavis

There was joy in Regina on Jan. 27 when the Pats scored a 3-2 victory over visiting Portland. It ended a 36- game Regina winless streak that covered 96 days. “I hope the players don’t become satisfied with the win,” said Lorne Davis, who had taken over as GM/head coach from Del Wilson and Bob Turner with the Pats at 2-32-5.

A nine-hour meeting in Calgary resulted in a new playoff format. Under the original format, the Flin Flon Bombers, third in the East, were 20 points ahead of Regina and all but had a playoff spot locked up. Suddenly, there was a new format and the Bombers were fighting for a spot. Oh yes, they were also on a 15-game West Coast road trip.

“In this league, you need two pieces of equipment,” said Flin Flon boss Mickey Keating. “You need a face-guard when you play some of the teams on the ice and a back protector for the committee room. I had inklings that there may be changes in the playoffs but I had confidence there were intelligent hockey men in this league. I was shown different.”

In Portland, the Winter Hawks were beginning to carve out a niche, which resulted in this March 1 comment from GM Brian Shaw: “We’re selling the all-American boy image. Our players are all properly dressed in public. They all have respectable hair lengths. We feel image is important. Our players have become our outstanding selling point, and they have actually played much better because of the great acceptance which now is blossoming in Portland.”

In mid-April, Kamloops majority owner Ephram Steinke admitted the franchise would likely move to Spokane over the summer. The reasons? Steinke blamed almost $500,000 in losses over four years, and the city’s refusal to construct a new arena.

BobStrumm
The often-emotional Bob Strumm. (Photo: Regina Leader-Post)

On May 12, the Calgary Centennials signed Bob Strumm as general manager. One of Strumm’s first moves was to confirm that a move to Billings was being contemplated.

Strumm, who had been Chynoweth’s executive assistant, was, at 29, the WCHL’s youngest GM. He would be one of the league’s most-prominent figures through the mid-1980s.

The Calgary move became official on May 19. Eleven days later, Kamloops moved to Seattle and became the Breakers under new owner John Hamilton.

On July 19, at the annual meeting in Calgary, the transfer of the Winnipeg Monarchs to Calgary was approved. Del Wilson, president and governor of the Pats, was named chairman of the board, replacing Bill Burton.

When Winnipeg moved to Calgary and became the Wranglers, owner Gerry Brisson named Doug Barkley as GM. The coach? It was Brisson. Would the GM be able to fire the owner/coach.

Stay tuned.

The 1977-78 regular season hadn’t even started when McLean was in trouble. It stemmed from an exhibition game against the host Victoria Cougars when midway in the second period he ventured into the stands to tangle with a fan who was taunting him. For his troubles, McLean got a gash on his forehead and, later, a $250 fine. This would serve as an omen.

A fierce rivalry was building between Regina and the Brandon Wheat Kings. After one early-season game, Davis had this to say: “If (Dave) Semenko would have been close enough to the box I would have swung at him . . . he came over by our bench trying to intimidate us.” To which Brandon coach Dunc McCallum responded: “How can a 220-pound man be held back by a stick boy?”

A few days later, Semenko joined the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers. A couple of years later, Davis joined the Oilers as a scout.

BillDerlago
BILL DERLAGO

Derlago, perhaps the best pure offensive talent this league has seen, had a 40-game point streak end on Nov. 9 when he left a game with a thigh injury during his first shift. One month later, he blew out a knee in an exhibition game against the Moscow Selects. Had Derlago not been hurt, who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up? When he was injured, he had 48 goals and 80 points in 26 games. He was on pace for 133 goals, three more than the then-CMJHL record of 130 held by Guy Lafleur.

On Feb. 3, Jack McLeod resigned as coach of the Saskatoon Blades. He stayed on as GM, but put Garry Peters behind the bench. In Calgary, Barkley, the GM, took over as coach from Brisson, the owner.

More bad ink, and lots of it, in early February when McLean was slapped with a 25-game suspension for allegedly hitting an official. He returned for the playoffs.

“Our league has long been accused of protecting either our coaches or, more particularly, owner/coaches, but there is no way one coach or one franchise is bigger than the league,” Chynoweth said. “I can live with the so-called violence on ice, as projected by the media, but when it comes to our officials, qualified or unqualified, I look at things much differently.”

More bad ink in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, it emerged from a round-robin series. This one featured Brandon, Flin Flon and Regina in a double home-and-home series. When it got to the final game, Flin Flon at Regina, the Pats had to beat the Bombers by at least six goals to eliminate Brandon and set up a Regina-Flin Flon division final. Regina won 10-4 and the high-powered Wheat Kings, led by the likes of Derlago, Brian Propp, Laurie Boschman and Ray Allison, were done like so much burnt toast.

“For us to say anything is stupid. You saw what happened,” Flin Flon defenceman Ray Markham said after the game.

Ultimately, Flin Flon, New Westminster and Billings advanced to the WCHL’s round-robin semi-final to eliminate one team and put the other two in the championship final. Out went Flin Flon. New Westminster then swept Billings in the final. It was the Bruins’ fourth straight WCHL title and they would win their second consecutive Memorial Cup.

The Bruins, a power for oh, so long, would rarely be heard from in a positive light again.

On May 22, Flin Flon governor Gord Mitchell revealed that the community-owned team would cease operations. “I hate to see it go,” Mitchell said. “It’s certainly not the fault of the league. The league’s not kicking us out. But there comes a time when something like this seems to be the most reasonable thing to do. We’re a small centre and it got to the point where the league had outgrown us.”

A week later, Chynoweth, who had threatened to resign, announced he would remain as president, thanks to a promise from the governors that an executive assistant would be provided to help with such things as discipline. Wilson, the part-owner of the Pats, filled the bill as vice-president and referee-in-chief. Shaw replaced Wilson as chairman of the board.

On June 1, Gregg Pilling was named GM/coach in Regina, replacing Davis who, in a surprise move, was fired. Davis professed sadness, saying he had worked awfully hard and that all of that work would bear fruit in two years. Which is exactly what happened — two years later the Pats were in the Memorial Cup. But Pilling was gone by that point.

EdChynoweth2

It was during the summer of 1978 when Chynoweth began talking of an education program. On July 4, he announced a program whereby teams would provide a year’s tuition and books at a recognized post-secondary institution for every season a player was in the league.

On Aug. 16, Chynoweth announced an Edmonton group headed by Bill Hunter had purchased the Flin Flon franchise from the league. Hunter would be president and governor, Vic Mah would be first vice-president.

The 1978-79 season began with news of a name change and ended with a new champion for the first time since the spring of ’74.

With three of 12 teams situated in the U.S., the WCHL was no more. Now it was the Western Hockey League.

GreggPilling
GREGG PILLING

The goofiness started on Oct. 22 when Pilling went into the penalty box at the start of the third period of a game in Calgary. He said he would serve a bench minor handed him for delay of game at the end of the second period in what would be an 8-1 loss. Pilling also alternated goaltenders Jeff Lastiwka and Gregg Dumba every shift change after a brawl at 2:52 of the second. Changing goalies ended 30 seconds into the third period when, with the faceoff outside Regina’s blueline, Dumba lined up behind his net. He was given a gross misconduct.

Chynoweth, who fined Pilling $1,000, said: “I thought it was a circus. I wouldn’t blame anybody if they didn’t go back.”

WheatKings7879

This was to be the season of McCallum’s Wheat Kings. That much was evident when Brandon ran its two-season unbeaten streak to a WHL-record 49 games and its single-season streak to 29 games. Brandon finally lost, going down 9-4 in Edmonton on Dec. 13 with the Oil Kings scoring all nine goals with the man advantage.

There was more news from Brandon on Jan. 11 when GM Jack Brockest, one of the WHL’s most likeable people, bought the team.

If any team could match Brandon it was Portland. The Winter Hawks had a 19-game unbeaten streak ended when visiting Brandon won 7-4 to go to 42-3-7.

In mid-March, rumours had the Edmonton franchise, which was averaging about 500 fans a game, moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Red Deer.

Things got ugly on March 22 in New Westminster when an incident involving the Bruins and Portland resulted in McLean’s being suspended indefinitely and seven of his players being charged by police. A game-ending brawl broke out, but this one was different because, while the Bruins left their bench, Hodge managed to keep his players under control.

On March 27, Wilson said McLean would not be allowed to coach during the playoffs, nor would he be allowed to communicate with the bench from the press box as he had done during previous suspensions.

McLean apologized for the brawl at a Vancouver press conference: “I have to take the full load, the full responsibility for what happened . . . when I look at it, maybe the game has gone by me. Maybe my coaching style isn’t what’s needed anymore. I’m an old horse that’s been at it for 25 years and it’s tough to change your thinking. The game is changing — maybe I haven’t changed with it.”

On April 4, GM Bill Shinske and McLean announced the Bruins were for sale, for $350,000.

The Winter Hawks got a small measure of revenge, beating the visiting Bruins 5-3 on April 8 to eliminate them from post-season play.

But this sad episode would drag on through the summer.

Meanwhile, Brandon was finishing with a 58-5-9 record, setting or tying 19 records.

The Oil Kings were sold on April 10, with ownership handed over to a Portland group headed by Bob Cooper and Tom Gauthier, who said they would move the franchise to Great Falls. “I guess sports is not my bowl of rice,” said Mah, an Edmonton restauranteur. It was Mah’s second go-round as an owner in Edmonton, and he wouldn’t give up. He would try and try again and again to get another franchise for the Alberta capital.

On April 20, charges of common assault were filed against seven Bruins — J.P. Kelly, Terry Kirkham, Bruce Howes, Rick Amann, Boris Fistric, Rob Roflik and Bill Hobbins. In August, the seven pleaded guilty. Judge James Shaw — no relation to the Portland general manager — granted conditional discharges to all seven, then banned them from league games at any level until Dec. 1. McLean said Shaw was “trying to be the judge who is going to clean up hockey. I’m worried about the affect on the game because the judge’s ruling makes a hip-check a criminal offence.”

Portland and Brandon ended up in the final, with Brandon winning in six games.

And, on May 28, Chynoweth resigned, effective June 30. This time he would leave, becoming part-owner of the Wranglers. “It’s more than 25 per cent and less than 50,” said majority-owner Jim Morley.

In late May, Pat Ginnell, who had been with the Lethbridge Broncos, moved north to take over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Mike Sauter would replace him in Lethbridge. Dave King left as coach in Billings to become head coach at the University of Saskatchewan.

The Pats were sold on June 8, with Wilson, Bill Patton, Gord Wicijowski, D.K. MacPherson, Wilf Degelman and Bob Babchuk selling to the Pinders — father Dick and sons Herb, Gerry and Tom. The price was believed to be near $300,000. Strumm was named GM, governor and part-owner.

Strumm later signed Bryan Murray as head coach and one of the great turnarounds in WHL history was under way.

But before that got started, Dave Descent was chosen to run the WHL. In his third season with the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association at the time, Descent had lots of hockey experience at various levels in the OHA. “This job is an opportunity to get back into hockey, which is my chosen sport, and advance my sporting career,” he said.

Regina, which finished 18-47-7 (last in the East, second-worst in the league) in 1978-79, would go 47-24-1 in 1979-80 to win the division.

It was obvious early that the Bruins were going to pay a steep price for the brawl against Portland. They got their first point, after 13 losses, with a 5-5 tie in Great Falls on Oct. 31.

And on Nov. 16 McLean was at it again. And again it involved Portland.

McLean got tangled up with a fan at a game in Portland and was charged with fourth-degree assault. In one of the most ironical situations in WHL history, McLean was in jail until Brian Shaw posted his bail of $525. Charges were later reduced to harassment and it was all cleared up when a civil compromise was signed, ending the criminal case.

In mid-December, Descent’s title was changed from executive director to president. And concern was being shown about Great Falls, which was 2-22-1 and hurtin’ at the gate. The Americans folded on Dec. 13.

On March 2, McLean threw a 30-gallon garbage can onto the ice to protest the work of referee Ken Wheler during a game against visiting Portland.

The next day, Descent announced his resignation. Said Descent: “Speaking honestly, I’ve enjoyed my stay and feel it was a positive experience. But for personal reasons I’ve decided to take a different career path which is something I’m not at liberty to discuss now.”

Shaw said a five-man board would run the league, and that McLean would be suspended for three games for throwing the can. Oh yes, McLean was later named acting chairman of the management committee.

On March 24, McLean said he was leaving the Bruins. “I’ve made up my mind,” he said. “I’ve worn out my welcome. I will not be in New Westminster next year. We built a dynasty here but it’s time to move on.” All this after the Bruins set a WHL record with 61 losses. It was the first time in 18 seasons that McLean had missed playoffs.

On April 17, Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania bought out McLean and Shinske for slightly more than $300,000.

A week later, the WHL announced that Winnipeg would have an expansion team for 1980-81 and that the owners were former Pats star Fran Huck, his law partner Gerald Gunn and Winnipeg businessmen Harry Buekert, Arnold DeFehr and Marsdon Fenwick. Buekert would be GM, with Huck as coach.

On April 27, Regina beat visiting Victoria, 5-4, to win the WHL final, 4-1. The 1980 Memorial Cup, which would be won by the Cornwall Royals, opened in Brandon and closed in Regina.

During the Memorial Cup it became apparent the major juniors were terribly concerned with NHL’s practice of drafting 18-year-olds.

Chynoweth said: “I understand the legal problems the NHL has, although I don’t sympathize with it . . . at this rate, the pros will be scouting midgets soon.”

McLeod remembered the 1979 draft: “Back in June one NHL general manager said there was nothing to worry about, that only seven or eight under-ages would be taken. When they took 58, we were a little disturbed. Once they got into it, they just kept going.”

Junior teams were to be paid $50,000 to $65,000 for under-age players who stuck in the NHL.

Some NHL people said they weren’t in favour of the 18-year-old draft, either.

“The general managers unanimously fought to the 11th hour to avoid drafting under-ages,” said Washington GM Max McNab. “We were going to get caught in a lawsuit. But the NHL is like the government in the eyes of the public here. We’re going to get shot at in any decision.”

On May 15, the WHL announced that the dormant Great Falls franchise would relocate to Spokane with Cooper remaining as majority owner.

NelsonSkalbania
NELSON SKALBANIA

On June 26, Skalbania, already the owner of New Westminster and the NHL’s Calgary Flames, bought 50 per cent of the Wranglers. Skalbania explained: “It’s a sympathetic thing. I said when we bought the Flames that we’d support junior hockey in Calgary and I can’t think of a way we’d be supporting it any more than owning the team. I just hope we don’t lose that much money with them.”

Pat Shimbashi, a minority owner in Lethbridge, bought the other 50 per cent of the Wranglers from Jim Morley and Chynoweth, which meant that the latter would return as WHL president.

RozandaSkalbania
ROZANDA SKALBANIA (Photo: archives.newwestcity.ca)

On June 27, Skalbania completed his purchase of the Bruins, buying 100 per cent for $325,000. McLean stayed as GM, while Skalbania’s 20-year-old daughter, Rozanda, was named president.

McLean resigned a couple of weeks later and Tracy Pratt was named GM. “I’d like to forget about the big bad Bruins of the past,” Pratt said, “and I’d like to think of them as the scrappy Bruins in the future. My concern is putting families back in the building. There was a shade too much violence in past years and many people became very bitter about what happened at Queen’s Park Arena.”

The league lost its referee-in-chief on Aug. 8 when Wilson announced he would scout for the Montreal Canadiens, a team with which he had long been associated.

DarylLubiniecki

The 1980-81 season opened quietly enough, but the silence was shattered on Dec. 1 with a shakeup in Saskatoon. McLeod and coach Lorne Frey ended their association with the Blades. Majority owner Nate Brodsky bought McLeod’s share (20 per cent) and named Daryl Lubiniecki GM and coach.

Lubiniecki began shaking things up when, on Jan. 15, he traded one player — centre Rocky Trottier — to Billings for six players — Pat Rabbitt, Dave Brown, Brad Duggan, Dave Chartier, Lyndon Byers and Al Acton.

Fighting was still a concern and on Dec. 17 Chynoweth announced that teams would be fined $2,500 if their players fought before games or between periods. Players who started the fights or were main combatants would get a minimum of five games.

A black cloud continued to follow the Bruins. A labour dispute forced them to play their last 29 games on the road. Their last 13 home games were played in such places as Bellingham, Wash., Kamloops, Trail, Duncan, B.C., and Coleman, Alta. The Bruins set a WHL record by losing 25 in a row and had to give season-ticket holders a refund for the 13 home games that were moved.

There were rumblings out of Swift Current that the locals were interested in a WHL franchise. John Rittinger, president of the SJHL team there, was trying to raise money for the venture. “I can’t give you a figure at this time,” he said on April 1, “but, personally, I feel there has been insufficient support.”

The juniors were beginning to realize they were going to have to live with the 18-year-old draft. Said Chynoweth: “The under-age situation is a problem but also a fact of life. The law of the land says at 18 you can fight for your country, drink and get married. Consequently, they’re also eligible to be drafted and play for NHL teams.”

The WHL had a new referee-in-chief — Richard Doerksen — and he was in the news in the playoffs after Strumm grabbed him in the press box during a game. Strumm was slapped with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.

Victoria, under coach Jack Shupe, would win the WHL championship in 1980-81. Trailing Calgary 3-1, the Cougars bounced back and wrapped it up on May 1, beating the visiting Wranglers, 4-2, in Game 7.

Singing a song that would become popular in NHL circles in years to come, Calgary coach Doug Sauter explained: “(Goaltender Grant) Fuhr was the difference.”

NEXT: Part 4 of 5.

COVID-19 playing havoc with MJHL; Free Press: OCN player positive . . . Gogol had quite a season in ’77-78

It didn’t take long for life in the pandemic to take a nasty turn for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The 12-team league was cruising along, having gotten in 38 regular-season mjhlgames since opening on Oct. 9, until the province’s numbers started running wild. By Tuesday, the Winnipeg Free Press was suggesting the MJHL’s season might be in doubt.

Let’s recap . . .

On Monday, Hockey Manitoba announced that it had shut down all hockey activity in the Winnipeg metropolitan region effective immediately, with things to be revisited on Nov. 15. As a result, the MJHL postponed weekend games that were to involve the Selkirk Steelers, Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze. At the time, the league said the weekend’s other games would go ahead as scheduled, after which it would shut down until Nov. 20.

On Tuesday, the MJHL announced that “this week’s games involving the OCN Blizzard have been postponed due to a public health concern.”

It wasn’t long before Jason Bell and Mike Sawatzky of the Free Press were OCNreporting that “at least one player with the OCN Blizzard has tested positive for COVID-19, putting the club’s season and perhaps even the MJHL’s 2020-21 campaign into doubt.”

The Blizzard was to have played the Kings in Dauphin on Tuesday night, but that game was postponed. The teams played Sunday in Dauphin, with the Blizzard winning, 7-4. The Blizzard player who tested positive played in that game.

OCN’s lineup on Sunday included two players on loan from the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders — F Justin Nachbaur and F Evan Herman — and F Eric Alarie of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Dauphin’s lineup included F Tyson Kozak of the Portland Winterhawks, F Jakob Brook of the Regina Pats and F Kade Runke of the Warriors.

The parent of an OCN player told the Free Press: “All the details haven’t been released yet. I certainly wouldn’t want to provide any misinformation, so the information has to come from the right channels. (The organization said) just that there’s been possible exposure in the division, so we’re following proper health protocols and going into isolation mode until there’s more information.”

The Free Press also reported it had been told by multiple sources that “OCN players from outside The Pas were being told to return home.”

A parent of a player with a different MJHL team told the Free Press: “Almost close to calling that anonymous line for COVID reporting. Something I think MJHL commissioner should answer questions on. Certainly OCN. But sure the league is done until (Christmas) at least after this.”

Taking Note has been told that at least one of the four on-ice officials who worked Sunday’s game has been told he should self-isolate for 14 days.

According to the MJHL’s schedule, weekend games in Winkler, Portage la Prairie, Steinbach and Dauphin will be played before the league breaks until Nov. 20.

The story from the Free Press is right here.


Brent Gogol holds the WHL record for most penalty minutes in one season — 511 in 1977-78. He started the season with the Victoria Cougars, earning 46 minutes in six games. He was dealt to the Billings Bighorns, where he added another 465 minutes in 61 games. . . . Interestingly, Mel Hewitt, who split his 1977-78 season between the Saskatoon Blades and Calgary Wranglers, finished only three minutes behind Gogol in that same season. . . . In 1990-91, Kerry Toporowski of the Spokane Chiefs got to 505 minutes. You have to wonder if he knew how close he was to Gogol’s record at the time.



COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CB Marlon Humphrey of the Baltimore Ravens has tested positive. He played every defensive snap on Sunday in the Raven’s 28-24 loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. . . . The Steelers announced Monday that all of their tests had come back negative. . . . By Tuesday, though, the Ravens had put seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list — linebackers Tyus Bowser, L.J. Fort, Malik Harrison, Matthew Judon and Patrick Queen, DB DeShon Elliott and practice squad DB Terrell Bonds. Those seven will quarantine for five days but could be activated in time to face the host Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. . . .

RB AJ Dillon of the Green Bay Packers has tested positive and won’t play Thursday against the host San Francisco 49ers. Dillon played on Sunday as the Packers dropped a 28-22 decision to the visiting Minnesota Vikings. He was on the field for 10 offensive snaps and seven plays on special teams. . . . RB Jamaal Williams and LB Kamal Martin, named as high-risk close contacts, also won’t play. . . .

The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals came off their bye week and head coach Cliff Kingsbury revealed a pair of positive tests from the weekend. Kingsbury wouldn’t provide identities of the two players, but LB Devon Kennard later reported on Twitter that he had tested positive. . . . The team also has placed CB Byron Murphy on the reserve/COVID-19 list. . . . The Cardinals are to play the visiting Miami Dolphins on Sunday. . . .

The Denver Broncos revealed Tuesday that team president Joe Ellis and general manager John Elway have tested positive. Meanwhile, assistant coaches Ed Donatell, Curtis Modkins and Mike Munchak are under COVID-19 protocols, as is OL Graham Glasgow. . . . The Broncos are scheduled to visit the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. . . .

QB Andy Dalton of the Dallas Cowboys had been expected to return on Sunday against the host Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. . . . Dalton missed the Cowboys’ previous game with a concussion. . . .

The U of Wisconsin Badgers have had a second straight football game cancelled. The Badgers were to have played Purdue on Saturday. Wisconsin has had 27 positives since Oct. 24 — 15 players and 12 staff. . . . Interestingly, there isn’t room in the Big Ten schedule to play games that are affected by the virus, so the games are cancelled. . . .

Following one positive test, the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay DynamitersInternational Junior Hockey League have nine additional members of the organization self-isolating until Nov. 11. This comes after the Interior Health Authority completed contact tracing. The Dynamiters’ last exhibition game, scheduled for Friday against the visiting Fernie Ghostriders has been cancelled. . . . The KIJHL plans on opening its regular season on Nov. 13. The Dynamiters are scheduled to be at home to Fernie that night. . . .

The Chilliwack Minor Hockey Association has paused for at least two weeks. An outbreak at a Chilliwack dance studio — there are at least 30 positives — resulted in meetings between the CMHA and health authorities, and a decision was made to suspend all hockey activities. . . .

The South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League has delayed the start of its regular season to Nov. 26. The seven-team league hopes to play a 12-game regular season. . . . The original plan was to play the regular 18-game season starting on Nov. 6. . . .

The QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs have lost assistant coach Mathieu Turcotte, who has left the team for personal reasons. According to Mikael Lalancette of TVA Sports, Turcotte “has health problems that put him at risk” during these pandemic times. . . . The Voltigeurs are one of the QMJHL teams that has experienced positive tests. . . .

The U of Rhode Island Rams football team has had to put things on hold after a player and a staff member tested positive. All players and staff members have been told to quarantine for two weeks. . . . The Rams have been hold light workouts as they aren’t scheduled to play until Feb. 27 as the Colonial Athletic Association chose not to play in the fall.


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.


Paddy in Disguise (With Glasses) . . . QMJHL aiming for Oct. 1 . . . Goodall talks Bedard


The headline in the Victoria Times-Colonist read: Paddy (The Phantom) Ginnell back in town.

It was Sept. 15, 1985, and the New Westminster Bruins were in Victoria for an exhibition WHL game with the Cougars.

Ginnell, a former owner, general manager and head coach of the Cougars, now was the Bruins’ GM/head coach. While he wasn’t behind the bench for this one because he was serving Game 1 of a five-game suspension, he actually was in the arena. At least for a few minutes.

Dave Senick of the Times-Colonist covered the game and wrote that Ginnell “had a false moustache pasted on his upper lip, a pair of sunglasses perched on his nose and a floppy cap pulled well down his forehead. A frumpy lumber jacket completed the outfit.”

It seems that Ginnell had planned on taking in the game in person, but after being recognized — gee, you think! — Senick reported that the veteran coach “stood by the Bruins’ bus and spent the afternoon chatting with those he knew from a past coaching job with the Cougars.”

Why was Ginnell suspended (and fined $500)?

It seems the Bruins and Seattle Thunderbirds had become involved in a bench-clearing brawl on Sept. 11 in Chilliwack, and Ginnell’s guys were deemed the first to leave the bench.

Bench-clearing brawls. Coaches in disguise. Yes, those were the days, weren’t they?

BTW, the above photo of Ginnell, in disguise, was taken by Ian McKain of the Times-Colonist.


The QMJHL, which unveiled a new logo on Monday, plans to begin its 2020-21 regular season on Oct. 1 with a schedule calling for each team to play its usual 68 games. Commissioner Gilles Courteau told a video conference on Tuesday that his league expects to have “a certain percentage of spectators” attending games. . . . The QMJHL opened its 2019-20 regular season on Sept. 19. The 18-team league has teams in four provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. . . . Courteau said the league is working on a return-to-play program and that it will continue to work through all of this with public health officials. . . . Later, some teams, including the Halifax Mooseheads, issued statements. “Although this is a positive announcement for all of us . . . we fully understand that there are still a number of factors to be determined and approved by our Provincial Government and public health authorities before we can begin selling ticket packages,” the Mooseheads said. “We are currently working closely with the QMJHL on a Return to Play protocol for the 2020-21 season in order to ensure a safe return for our players, staff and fans, that will be in compliance with public health guidelines.” . . . So, while the QMJHL is aiming for Oct. 1, it still is faced with a lot of unknowns, meaning the league is no different than anyone else.



Don’t shoot the messenger. OK?

Bartley Kives of CBC News wrote an interesting piece that was posted on the Corp.’s website on Sunday morning.

Here’s the headline: Never mind 2020 — It could be years before pro sports fans are back in the stands.

That is something I have been wondering about for a while now. Faced with an aggressive virus, no vaccine, and with governments, at least in Canada, who are reluctant to allow large gatherings in their jurisdictions, where exactly does the sports world go from here.

That sports world would include pro sports and, yes, junior hockey.

While the NHL, NBA and MLB likely could survive in the short term without fans in the stands, it’s doubtful that the CFL could make it. And there is no chance — Zero! Nil! Nada! — that junior hockey at any level could make it.

The CFL, like all leagues, is wanting badly to have some sort of season in 2020.

As Kives points out, “. . . the CFL may not be able to afford a year of failing to engage its audience. The CFL desperately needs real fans to buy tickets to games, merchandise, food and beer.

“The league could be holding out faint hope public health authorities will allow fans to gather in large groups this season.

“That is quite unlikely, given the highly communicable nature of COVID-19 and the potential for infection when thousands of people are gathered in a confined space such as a stadium concourse.

“It’s hard enough for public health employees to trace the contacts of a single infected patient who works at a Winnipeg Walmart or a Brandon trucking company.

“Imagine the complexity — if not outright impossibility — of trying to figure out who came in contact with one infected person among a crowd of tens of thousands at a stadium such as I.G. Field in Winnipeg or Mosaic Stadium in Regina.”

Kives spoke with Dan Chateau, an assistant professor of community health sciences at the U of Manitoba.

“Think about the Roughriders,” Chateau said. “They get people from all over Saskatchewan, and the Blue Bombers get people from all over Manitoba and from all over the City of Winnipeg, which is three quarters of a million (people) itself.

“You don’t want those people to go back to their communities and eventually spread COVID-19 again through each of their individual spheres of social contact.”

Kives followed that by writing this:

“This would not just be a problem this fall. It will be a problem for the CFL, NHL and any professional league as long as COVID-19 continues to circulate among the population and no vaccine treatment is available.

“This, unfortunately, means there may be no fans in the stands for CFL and NHL games in 2021, 2022 or beyond.”

As for a vaccine, well, you can read all about it right here, which is where you will find Kives’ complete story.

Just remember . . . please don’t shoot the messenger.



When you talk about the most under-rated players in WHL history, Rick Blight’s name has to be near the top of the list. Playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings, he put up 31 goals and 62 assists in his freshman season (1972-73). The next season, he totalled 130 points, including 49 goals, in 67 games. In 1974-75, Blight scored 60 goals and added 52 assists. . . . He finished his major junior career with 336 points, including 141 goals, in 201 assists. . . . Blight committed suicide in April 2005. . . . Ed Willes of Postmedia has more on Blight’s story right here.


The Kamloops Blazers have signed F Connor Levis, a first-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft who had committed to the U of Michigan Wolverines. Levis was the 20th overall selection in that draft. . . . He and D Mats Lindgren, who was taken seventh overall by the Blazers, had both committed to Michigan. Lindgren also has signed with the Blazers. . . . Levis, at 15, had 12 goals and 14 assist in 33 games for the St. George’s School prep team last season.



Glen Goodall holds one WHL record that won’t ever be broken. Over six WHL seasons, Goodall, now 50, played in 399 regular-season games. At 14, he was a regular with the Seattle Breakers in 1984-85. He played the next five seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Having played at 14, he can relate to what F Connor Bedard is faced with as he prepares to join the Regina Pats at 15. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post chatted with Goodall and the results are right here.


USA Hockey has cancelled boys’ and girls’ player development camps for this summer. From a news release: “USA Hockey cancelled the Boys Select 15, Girls 15, and Girls 16/17 camps on March 20 and on Monday cancelled the remaining camps that had been listed as tentative, including the Boys Select 16, Boys Select 17 and Girls Under-18 Select camps.”


No large gatherings in Alberta through August . . . Calgary and Edmonton lose major events . . . WHL planning to open on schedule

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, has said that restrictions on large gatherings in that province will run through the end of August.

Since Thursday, a number of events scheduled for Edmonton, including K-Days, and the city’s folk and jazz festivals, have been cancelled.

On Thursday, the Calgary Stampede and that city’s folk music festival were cancelled. On Friday, the City of Calgary extended its ban on large public gatherings and events through Aug. 31.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come, and the relatively low case numbers we’re seeing in many parts of the province are the result of our collective efforts and sacrifices,” Hinshaw said in her daily briefing. “COVID-19 is still with us, and it spreads rapidly through social interactions.

“We have had several instances in the province of social gatherings where one person passed the virus on to many others at a single event before the individual knew they had COVID.”

She mentioned a bonspiel in Edmonton that included 73 attendees, 40 of whom later tested positive for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately,” she added, “this virus does not respect our feelings. I am keenly aware of the depth to which these measures are affecting everyone. I do not take them lightly. I ask you to do the same.”

Meanwhile, according to a tweet from Rod Pedersen, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, told him that the league plans “to open the 2020-21 season on schedule and the June 27 import draft is unchanged.”

That, of course, is what Robison would be expected to say.

The WHL hasn’t yet released its 2020-21 regular-season schedules, but chances are it would begin the weekend of Sept. 25, about five weeks after teams will want to open training camps.

However, you would hope that the WHL has Plan B, Plan C, Plan D and maybe a few others . . . you know, just in case.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, with 19 teams in B.C. and one — the Spokane Braves — in Washington, normally would open its regular season in mid-September. Steve Hogg, the general manager of the Summerland Steam, has told John Arendt of Black Press that “we have full plans on having a league,” but that it might not get rolling until mid-October.

You also are free to wonder if the annual CHL import draft really will be held on June 27. It normally is held a day or two after the NHL draft, which, this year, is scheduled for June 26 and 27 in Montreal.

But . . . hold on . . . there are rumblings that the NHL may postpone its draft because there will be a whole lot to sort out if it is to be held prior to the end of the regular season. And you will recall that the NHL’s regular season remains in a holding pattern.



The Bellingham Bells of baseball’s West Coast League have cancelled their 2020 season, but the league says its remaining 11 teams are preparing to open on June 5. . . . The league includes two Canadian teams — the Kelowna Falcons and Victoria HarbourCats. . . . The Bells’ hand was forced when the city shut down all activities in its facilities through Aug. 31. . . .

The 10-team Cape Cod Baseball League, perhaps the top summer league for college players, has cancelled its 2020 season. The league has been around since 1885 and has played every season since 1945. . . . Its season was to have opened on June 13, with playoffs starting on Aug. 4. . . .

The 12-team Western Canadian Baseball League is expected to cancel its 2020 season after officials meet on Wednesday. The 12-team league features teams in Melville, Moose Jaw, Regina, Swift Current, Weyburn and Yorkton, all in Saskatchewan, and the Alberta communities of Brooks, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Okotoks. . . .

Organizers have cancelled the World Triathlon event that was scheduled to be held in Edmonton. The Grand Final of the ITU World Triathlon group was set for Aug. 17-23. . . . Reid Wilkins of Global News has more right here, including news that the Prairie Football Conference, which is scheduled to begin play in mid-August, is looking at a delayed start.



A nondescript wooden cudgel discovered in a Vermont home in 1980 — and just sitting in an umbrella stand ever since — turned out to be a circa-1850s hockey stick now up for auction online. It’s been appraised at $3.5 million,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Proving once again that it pays to forecheck.”


Pizza


Greg Cote, in the Miami Herald: “The PGA Tour is planning a mid-June return with no fans, assuring the look and ambiance of it will have all the excitement of a Tuesday practice round. Meantime, GolfTV reported exclusively that the gum Tiger Woods chews on a golf course is orange-flavored Trident. Run to the store and start hoarding!”



Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “Khrushchev, too, looks like the kind of man his physicians must continually try to diet, and historians will someday correlate these sporadic deprivations, to which he submits ‘for his own good,’ with his public tantrums. If there is to be a world cataclysm, it will probably be set off by skim milk, Melba toast, and mineral oil on the salad.”


Wasps


Nick Deschenes has signed on as the head coach and director of player personnel with the junior B Summerland Steam of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . He has spent the past four seasons working with minor hockey programs and academies near his home in West Kelowna. . . . Prior to that he spent one season (2012-13) as the GM/head coach of the KIJHL’s Grand Forks Border Bruins and the next two as the GM/head coach of the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. . . . Deschenes takes over the Steam from Ken Karpuk, who departed after one season. . . . Tim Hogg, the play-by-play voice of the Steam has more right here.


Barry Petrachenko spent 20 years running BC Hockey. On Monday, the province’s hockey CEO lost his job. . . . If you’re wondering what happened, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week has the story right here.


StayAway

Scattershooting on a Tuesday evening after spending time on Monday with Sabrina . . .

Scattershooting

If you’re wondering, Dave Ayres and his wife, Sarah, are expected back in the Toronto area today (Wednesday) after being feted in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday. You will recall that Ayres, who had a kidney transplant in 2004, is the EBUG (emergency backup goaltender) who helped the Carolina Hurricanes beat the host Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3, on Saturday night. . . . They are expected to be back in Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night where he again will be the EBUG, this time with the Vancouver Canucks in to play the Maple Leafs. . . . You don’t suppose that he might . . . nah, never happen.


BoardingPass


Congrats to Trevor Weisgerber, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Weisgerber, 40, who underwent a kidney transplant in St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon on Jan. 26, has been named winner of the Joe Bloski Award as the league’s coach of the year. . . . The Warriors went 30-13-1 and tied for fourth place in the 12-team league, one point out of third and seven short of first. They will open a first-round playoff series against the visiting Notre Dame Hounds on Thursday. . . . Weisgerber told me on Tuesday that “I am feeling pretty good . . . the fun begins on Thursday!” . . . If you aren’t familiar with Weisgerber’s story, you will find it all right here.



Grant Rezansoff, who played two seasons (1979-81) with the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, died on Saturday at his home in Red Wing, Minn. A native of Surrey, B.C., he was 58. . . . In his second season with the Cougars, he scored 40 goals and added 57 assists. . . . After moving on from the WHL, Rezansoff played in the International and Central leagues before spending two seasons in Europe. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


Disneyland


The New York Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla, who last played in 2001, a total of $1,193, 248.20 a year until 2035. Now we are free to wonder if the NHL is headed into the same territory. . . . At the NHL trade deadline, it was pointed out that the Buffalo Sabres are paying D Christian Ehrhoff the nice sum of $857,143 per year until 2028. He last played with the Sabres in 2013-14 and was last in the NHL in 2015-16 with the Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Meanwhile, F Ilya Kovalchuk, who has gone from the Los Angeles Kings to the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals in the past few weeks, is taking up cap space on four different NHL teams, with the New Jersey Devils also in the Payin’ Ilya Club.


GiftCard


Until reading a book titled Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey, by Jeremy Allingham, I wasn’t aware that former Seattle Thunderbirds/Kelowna Rockets enforcer James McEwan had filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada.

It turns out that the lawsuit now is more encompassing that that, as Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out here:

“Already facing a class-action lawsuit over not paying its players a minimum wage, the three major junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League could soon find themselves facing a concussion lawsuit that could include hundreds, if not thousands, of former frequent fighters in junior hockey.

“What started as a lawsuit launched against the CHL, the WHL and Hockey Canada by former WHL player James McEwan in January 2019 was recently re-filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include both the OHL and QMJHL. Six days after the lawsuit was re-filed, the QMJHL postponed a vote on whether or not to ban fighting, a vote that was scheduled for that day, but was moved to August.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.



JUST NOTES: Having heard about Sabrina Ionescu in recent days, I got a chance to watch her on a TSN channel on Monday night as her Oregon Ducks beat the host Stanford Cardinal. Earlier in the day, Ionescu had spoken at the memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi — Ionescu was close with both of them. She also was fighting a flu bug and apparently was sick to her stomach before the game. The 5-foot-11 point guard then went out and led the Ducks to victory, in the process becoming the first player, male or female, in NCAA Division 1 history to have career totals of at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Yes, she is quite a player. Try to tune in if the Ducks are on TV again. . . . How goofy has the NHL’s trade deadline day become? Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports, singling out one incident from Monday: “The best moment of the day came when Johnny Gaudreau inexplicably left the ice at the Calgary Flames practice, leading everyone to freak out and speculate. It turns out he just had to pee. Trade deadline day is the best.”

Raiders can win WHL title tonight. . . . Giants hope to make some history. . . . Hudak wins Cranbrook by-election


ThisThat

John Hudak, who was the spokesperson for the Green Bay Committee that attempted to help keep the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, won a seat on Cranbrook’s City Council in a by-election that was completed on Saturday. . . . Final preliminary results, as released by the City of Cranbrook, had Hudak with 1,115 votes (45.9 per cent of the vote), well ahead of Ron Miles, who was second at 518, and three other candidates. . . . The by-election was the result of Danielle Eaton having resigned in January. . . . A retired RCMP officer, Hudak was part of the Green Bay Committee, a group comprising mostly local businessmen who offered to sell sponsorships and season tickets in an attempt to benefit the Ice. However, the committee, which said it quickly sold $50,000 worth of sponsorships and tickets, disbanded when it realized that it wasn’t going to get any co-operation from the WHL team’s owners. . . . The Ice relocated to Winnipeg when its season ended.


There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping by here, why not consider donating to the cause? Thank you very much.


The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies won the QMJHL championship with a 4-0 victory over the qmjhlhost Halifax Mooseheads on Saturday. The Huskies won the series, 4-2. . . . Huskies G Samuel Harvey stopped 28 shots to earn the shutout. Harvey, who is in his fifth season with the Huskies, has 20 career shutouts — 15 in the regular season and five in the playoffs. He put up four of those playoff shutouts in these playoffs. . . . Both teams will appear in the Memorial Cup as the Mooseheads are the host team. . . . This is the 11th straight season in which the host team for the Memorial Cup hasn’t been able to win its league championship.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Giants arrived back in Prince Albert on Saturday afternoon and will resume the WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup with Game 6 tonight (Sunday) at the Art Hauser Centre. . . . The Raiders lead the series, 3-2, and can win the second championship in franchise history — the first came in 1985 — with a victory tonight. . . . Should the Giants win tonight — and they won Game 5, 4-3, on Friday in Langley, B.C. — Game 7 would be played on Monday night in Prince Albert. . . .

Following the conclusion of Game 5 in Langley on Friday, fans in Prince Albert began lining up at the Art Hauser Centre at 11 p.m., with tickets for Games 6 and 7 going on sale Saturday morning. . . . Late Friday night, the Raiders advised fans via Twitter: “Tickets for Game 7 are non-refundable. If a Game 7 isn’t necessary, the tickets can be used as a voucher for any regular-season game in the 2019-20 season.” . . . Now I don’t know how much a ticket to Game 7 was selling for, but I have to think one of those tickets would be worth a whole lot more than one regular-season game. Wouldn’t it? . . .

If the Giants are to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup, they are going to have to do something that has been accomplished only once before in WHL history. . . . There have been 11 championship finals go to Game 7; the first 10 were won by the home team. The last final to need Game 7 was in 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings became the first team in WHL history to win Game 7 on the road. They beat the Portland Winterhawks, 4-2. . . .

Here is a look at the previous WHL championship series that have been decided in Game 7 . . .

1975 — The Saskatoon Blades actually won the first two games of what was an eight-point final — in other words, no OT — beating the New Westminster Bruins twice in legendary Queen’s Park Arena. The Bruins then won twice in Saskatoon, before the Blades won Game 5 at home. Back in New Westminster, the Bruins won, 4-1 and 7-2, to take the series, 8-6.

1976 — This also was an eight-point series featuring the Saskatoon Blades and New Westminster Bruins. The teams played to a 3-3 tie in Game 6 in New Westminster and the Bruins won Game 7, 3-1, the next night, winning the series, 9-5.

1981 — The Calgary Wranglers led the Victoria Cougars, 3-1, before the bottom fell out. The Cougars came back with 7-4 and 4-2 victories in Calgary, then won Game 7 at home, 4-2. This is the series that featured goaltenders Grant Fuhr (Victoria) and Mike Vernon (Calgary).

1984 — The Regina Pats won the middle three games at home to go ahead of the Kamloops Blazers, 3-2. The scene shifted to Kamloops where the Blazers won, 4-3 in OT and 4-2. In Game 6, the Pats were 12 seconds from winning the championship when Kamloops F Dean Evason tied the game. F Ryan Stewart later won it at 13;13 of OT.

1987 —The Medicine Hat Tigers and Portland Winterhawks played a 3-3-1 format and were all even going back to Alberta for Game 7 after the Tigers won Game 6, 4-3. Back home, the Tigers won Game 7, 6-2.

1992 — The Kamloops Blazers took a 3-1 lead over the Saskatoon Blades in a final that used a 3-3-1 format. The Blades won Games 5 and 6 (5-1 and 4-3) at home. The Blazers won it all by taking Game 7, 8-0, at home.

1993 — The Portland Winterhawks led the series, 3-2, over the Swift Current Broncos after a 3-1 victory in Game 5 in Oregon. The Broncos won Game 6, 7-5, in Portland, then went home and posted a 6-0 victory in Game 7.

1994 — For the third straight season, the WHL final went seven games, and for the second time in three seasons it featured the Kamloops Blazers and Saskatoon Blades. Using a 2-3-2 format, Kamloops won twice at home and then took Game 4 in Saskatoon for a 3-1 lead. The Blades tied it by winning 3-2 at home and 2-1 in Kamloops, but the Blazers took Game 7, 8-1, at home.

2007 — For the first time in 13 years, the WHL final went seven games. This time, it featured the Vancouver Giants and Medicine Hat Tigers. The Giants took a 3-2 series lead on the strength of three shutouts — 1-0, 4-0 and 3-0 — from G Tyson Sexsmith. But the Tigers went home for the last two games and won them both — 4-3 and 3-2 in double OT, the latter on a goal by F Brennan Bosch.

2012 — The Edmonton Oil Kings won Game 5, 4-3, at home to take a 3-2 lead over the Portland Winterhawks, who went home and won Game 6, 3-2, two nights later. The series shifted to Edmonton for Game 7 and the Oil Kings won, 4-1.

2014 — It was the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks one more time. Portland won twice at home, then Edmonton did the same. The Oil Kings won Game 5, 3-2, in Portland, only to have the Winterhawks go into Edmonton and win Game 6, 6-5 in OT. The Oil Kings won the final with a 4-2 road victory in Game 7. The WHL’s first season was 1966-67. The Oil Kings are the only team in the league’s history to have won Game 7 of a championship series on the road.

(NOTE: Thanks to Dean (Scooter) Vrooman, the legendary former play-by-play voice of the Winterhawks, for laying the groundwork for all of this.)


Tweetoftheday

IceDogs’ situation looks awfully messy. . . . Pats, Hurricanes make a trade. . . . WHL final resumes tonight in Langley

ThisThat

An Ontario Superior Court judge in Hamilton ruled last month that documents related to ohlthe OHL’s Niagara IceDogs and unauthorized contracts with players would be unsealed on Friday. They were, and TSN’s Rick Westhead has gone over those documents.

According to Westhead:

“The Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs agreed to unauthorized side contracts with the families of two players — one of whom is still in the OHL — and likely had similarly secret and unsanctioned deals with a number of European players, according to an investigation into the team’s recruiting practices.”

Westhead provides a lot of details in this piece, which is particularly damning because the OHL, as he puts it, “is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of current and former players demanding they be paid minimum wage.”

The IceDogs are owned by Denise and Bill Burke.

Westhead continues:

“In connection with that case, Denise Burke testified in a Nov. 14, 2015, affidavit that while her OHL team brought in an average of $2.7 million, it still lost money.

“Seven months before the IceDogs purportedly signed a secret deal with the (Liam) Ham family, Denise Burke said that it would be ‘catastrophic’ if the IceDogs had to pay players.”

At that time, Denise Burke testified: “We knew that we wouldn’t become rich owning a team, but seeing as this is our only business, we have always hoped that we would at least be able to break even and at least make more money than we spend, otherwise sooner or later the ‘Bank of Burke’ will run dry.”

Westhead’s complete story is right here.


There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping by here, why not consider donating to the cause? Thank you very much.


The Regina Pats have acquired F Drew Englot, 16, from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a Patsfourth-round selection in the 2022 WHL bantam draft. Englot, who is from Candiac, Sask., was picked by the Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 2017 bantam draft. . . . He has played the past two seasons with  the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds, who have won back-to-back league titles. This season he had 21 goals and 20 assists in 43 regular-season games.


Two former WHL coaches were fired by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers on Monday as they juggled their staff after the hiring of Alain Vigneault as head coach. . . . Kris Knoblauch and Rick Wilson both were dismissed. . . . Knoblauch, 40, had been with the Flyers for two seasons. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the Prince Albert Raiders in 2006-07. He then spent five seasons with the Kootenay Ice, the last two as head coach. He also spent four-plus seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Erie Otters. . . . Wilson, 68, joined the Flyers this season, on Dec. 4. He has been an NHL coach, mostly as an assistant since 1988-89. He spent eight seasons (1980-88) on Prince Albert’s staff, the last two as head coach.


Dave Andrews will retire after spending one more season as the president and CEO of the American Hockey League. Andrews, a former head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, told the AHL’s board of governors on Monday that he is going to retire as of June 30, 2020. He is completing his 25th season as AHL president. . . . Andrews was the Cougars’ head coach for all of 1982-83 and part of 1983-84, when he was replaced by Les Calder. He later spent seven seasons as the director of hockey operations with the Nova Scotia/Cape Breton Oilers, then the Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliate.


The OHL’s Ottawa 67’s had their 14-game playoff winning streak come to an end on Monday as they were beaten 7-2 by the Storm in Guelph. The 67’s, who were outshot 36-20, lead the OHL championship series, 2-1. . . . They’ll play Game 4 in Guelph on Wednesday. . . . The 67’s had swept their first three series and then opened the final with two victories. . . . Ottawa G Mikey DiPietro, who suffered what is believed to have been a high ankle sprain in Game 2, wasn’t in uniform for this one. . . .

In the QMJHL, the visiting Rouyn-Noranda Huskies dumped the Halifax Mooseheads, 5-2, to take a 2-1 lead in the championship final. . . . They’ll play again tonight in Halifax. . . . Both teams will play in the Memorial Cup because the Mooseheads are the host team. The tournament is to run from May 17 through May 26.


Mike Reagan has signed a new contract as general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers. This deal will take him through the 2020-21 season. . . . Reagan has been with the Bombers for 12 seasons, winning at least 30 games in six of them. The Bombers have been in the playoffs in each of those 12 seasons. . . . There is a news release right here.


Cam Basarab is the new head coach of the Trail-based Kootenay Ice of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. He started this season as an assistant coach with the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. He was moved up to head coach in November and then replaced on Jan. 23. . . . Basarab also was a video coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes for the previous two seasons. . . . Basarab takes over from Kris Boyce, the head coach for the past three seasons.


F Liam Stewart, who played four seasons (2011-15) with the Spokane Chiefs, has signed on with the SkyCity Stampede of the New Zealand Hockey League. Stewart, born in Great Britain, has a New Zealand passport through his mother, ex-model Rachel Hunter, so won’t be classified as an import. . . . The Stampede, which plays out of Queenstown, is to open the season on May 31 against the Dunedin Thunder. . . . He was to have played this season with the Sheffield Steelers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in Great Britain, but was sidelined by a concussion. . . . Stewart’s father is rock musician Rod Stewart.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup resumes tonight (Tuesday) with the  Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Gains meeting at the Langley, B.C., Events Centre. . . . The series is tied, 1-1. . . . They’ll play again Wednesday and Friday in Langley. . . . The $64,000 question going into Game 3 is whether Prince Albert D Max Martin will play. He left Game 2 in the second period after falling awkwardly into the end boards and appearing to injure a shoulder. . . . Martin is key part of the Raiders’ back end. He had 41 points, including 35 assists, in 59 regular-season games, and has seven assists in 18 playoff games. . . . Here’s Darren Steinke of Stanks’ Sermon explaining the Raiders’ options: “If (Martin) doesn’t play that will likely shake up the Raiders normally locked-in defensive pairings of Martin with Sergei Sapego, captain Brayden Pachal with Zack Hayes, and Jeremy Masella with Kaiden Guhle.” . . . If Martin doesn’t dress, the Raiders likely will insert D Loeden Schaufler into what will be his fifth game of these playoffs.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia takes a look right here at Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, who has learned to change with the times.


Tweetoftheday

WHL mourns deaths of Shupe and Cooper, both early builders. . . . Raiders move into the series lead. . . . Silvertips stayin’ alive

MacBeth

F Roman Pšurný (Medicine Hat, 2004-06) has signed a two-year contract extension with Přerov (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). This season, he had 14 goals and 30 assists in 53 games. He led the team in assists and points. . . .

F Mick Köhler (Medicine Hat, 2017-18) has signed a two-year contract extension with Cologne (Germany, DEL). He had two goals and two assists in 25 games there this season. On loan to Löwen Frankfurt (Germany, DEL2), he had three goals and 10 assists in 27 games. . . .

F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2010-14) has signed a one-year contract extension with Löwen Frankfurt (Germany, DEL2). This season, in 52 games, he had 15 goals and 22 assists. He was second in the league in face-off winning percentage at .617.


ThisThat

Jack Shupe, one of the winningest coaches in WHL history, has died. Shupe passed away whlWednesday night in Medicine Hat. He was 89. . . . Shupe, who was from Weyburn, Sask., was a WHL head coach for 11 seasons — six with the Medicine Hat Tigers and five with the Victoria Cougars. . . . He totalled 466 regular-season victories, which now has him tied for 10th on the WHL’s all-time list. . . . The Tigers, with Shupe behind the bench, won the 1972-73 WHL title, getting him to the Memorial Cup for the first time. It was a three-team round-robin at the time and all three teams — the Tigers, Toronto Marlboros and Quebec Remparts — finished 1-1. The Marlboros and Remparts advanced on the tiebreaker, and Toronto won the final, 9-1. . . . Shupe guided the Cougars to the WHL final in 1979-80, where they lost to the Regina Pats in five games, then won the WHL title in 1980-81 with a single-season record 60 victories, a mark that still stands. The Cougars finished third in the Memorial Cup. . . . A funeral service is scheduled for May 4, 11 a.m., at the Saamis Memorial Funeral Chapel in Medicine Hat. . . . There is an obituary right here.


Gary Cooper, the first president of the Kamloops WHL franchise that now is the Blazers, Kamloops1died Tuesday at the age of 80. . . . The New Westminster Bruins moved to Kamloops for the 1981-82 season and started out as the Junior Oilers. Peter Pocklington, the owner of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, bought the Bruins from Nelson Skalbania and was looking to relocate them. Cooper was part of a Kamloops group that raised the funds necessary ($110,000) to purchase 33 per cent. The move was made official by the WHL on July 2, 1981. . . . Prior to the 1984-85 season, Cooper was part of the group that spearheaded the purchase of the franchise from the Oilers, and he was the Blazers’ first president. Cooper later was a regular on the board of directors. . . . According to a Facebook post by Rick Wile, a former sports director at Radio NL in Kamloops, Cooper “was diagnosed with a brain tumour six weeks ago and passed away in hospice.”


The Swift Current Broncos announced Thursday that they are taking their play-by-play game broadcasts off conventional radio and moving them to the Internet. . . . The Broncos’ games had been heard on The Eagle 94.1 since the mid-1980s. It’s believed that the Broncos and Golden West Radio, which owns The Eagle 94.1, weren’t able to agree on the monetary terms of their contract. . . . The Portland Winterhawks went this route a few seasons ago and, according to Rich Franklin, the Winterhawks’ vice-president for corporate partnerships, the Broncos aren’t the only WHL team thinking about it these days. . . . “I was contacted by two other WHL teams this season (not Swift Current),” Franklin said in a tweet, “asking for details/input about our streaming-only approach, so it’s definitely being looked at by multiple teams.” . . . As for why the Winterhawks went the way they did, Franklin tweeted: “Airtime cost, ability to expand content, no measurable radio audience, overall growth of streaming and unlimited data options for users, and ease of access to stream via our app. It wasn’t an easy decision but we’re happy with results.” . . . However, the Winterhawks are in the U.S., and the Broncos play in Canada. As long-time WHL fan Alan Caldwell noted in a tweet: “One thing I would add here, though, is there is a huge disparity in mobile data costs” between the two countries. “Unlimited data plans (with 20GB or more before throttling) are common and cheap in the States. In Western Canada, to get 20 GB a month, you’ll need to not eat.”


The midget AAA hockey team in Moose Jaw is being rebranded as the WHL’s Moose Jaw MooseJawWarriorsWarriors take on a much larger role with it. In fact, the Moose Jaw Minor Hockey Association is calling it a “renewed partnership and sponsorship.” . . . The teams plays in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League and has been known as the Generals. It now will be the Warriors. . . . According to a news release, “Along with the rebranding of the AAA Warriors, the Moose Jaw Warriors will work with minor hockey in a mentorship and advisory role with the AAA Warriors, effective immediately.” . . . Trevor Weisgerber is the AAA Warriors’ head coach. Jeremy Ebbett was introduced Friday as the general manager, along with assistant coaches Carter Davis, Evan Schwabe and Carter Smith. . . . The full news release is right here.


The AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm has signed head coach Matt Keillor to a two-year contract extension. Keillor has been the club’s head coach since the middle of the 2016-17 season.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The Everett Silvertips staved off elimination on Friday night with a 4-1 victory over the Chiefs in Spokane. If the Silvertips are to keep playing, they will have to win again tonight in Spokane. . . . That will be tonight’s only WHL playoff game. . . . The winner of this series is to face the Vancouver Giants in the Western Conference final. . . .

Meanwhile, in Prince Albert, the Raiders dumped the Saskatoon Blades, 6-1, to take a 3-2 lead in that series. They’ll play Game 6 in Saskatoon on Sunday. . . . F Kirby Dach of the Blades didn’t finish Friday’s game, while Saskatoon D Dawson Davidson appeared to be injured late in the third period. . . . The winner of this series will meet the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference final. . . .

D Ralph Jarratt of the Victoria Royals set a franchise record for career playoff games played on Thursday in a 6-1 loss to the visiting Vancouver Giants. Jarratt finished his WHL career having played in 46 playoff games, one more than F Tyler Soy (2012-18). . . . The Royals, who were swept by the Giants, played in 10 playoff games this season and the team that scored first won all 10 of them.

——

FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Noah Gregor and F Dante Hannoun each scored twice and added an assist to help the PrinceAlbertPrince Albert Raiders to a 6-1 victory over the visiting Saskatoon Blades. . . . The Raiders lead the series, 3-2, with Game 6 set for Saskatoon on Sunday. . . . Hannoun (5) got the game’s first goal, on a PP, at 2:51 of the second period. . . . Gregor (3) made it 2-0, shorthanded, at 6:01. . . . D Emil Malysjev (1) got the Blades to within a goal at 9:07. . . . Gregor (4) got that one back at 10:23. . . . Prince Albert put it away with three third-period goals, from F Aliaksei Protas (3), at 1:01; Hannoun (6), at 12:31; and F Sean Montgomery (6), at 13:54. . . . Gregor, a 43-goal man in the regular season, hadn’t scored in his previous five games. . . . Raiders F Brett Leason picked up three assists. . . . Prince Albert was 1-2 on the PP; Saskatoon was 0-3. . . . G Ian Scott stopped 26 shots to earn the victory. . . . Saskatoon starter Nolan Maier was beaten six times on 25 shots in 53:54. Koen MacInnes played the final 6:06, but didn’t face a shot. . . . Saskatoon G Dorrin Luding was scratched after backing up Maier for a couple of games, so MacInnes was back on the bench for this one. . . . The Blades lost F Kirby Dach in the second period after he came together with Leason. Dach didn’t return. . . . The Raiders lost F Justin Nachbaur to an interference major and game misconduct at 14:52 of the third period for a hit on Saskatoon D Dawson Davidson, who needed help getting back to the bench. . . . The Raiders scratched F Cole Fonstad with an undisclosed injury, so D Loeden Schaufler got into the lineup.


F Connor Dewar scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Everett Silvertips to a 4-Everett1 victory over the Chiefs in Spokane. . . . The Chiefs lead the series, 3-1, with Game 4 in Spokane tonight. . . . Last night, Everett grabbed a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from F Robbie Holmes (3), at 6:21, and F Zack Andrusiak (6), on a PP, at 9:47. . . . F Adam Beckman (5) scored for Spokane, on a PP, at 18:53. . . . Dewar (4), the Everett captain, made it 3-1 at 6:41 of the second period, and he iced it with his fifth goal, an empty-netter, at 18:46 of the third period. . . . The Chiefs actually believed they had cut their deficit to 3-2 on a goal by Woods with 3:06 left in the third period. However, the goal was waved off due to what was ruled as incidental contact with the goaltender by F Luc Smith. . . . That ruling may have had something to do with Spokane head coach Dan Lambert taking a bench minor at 19:09 and D Filip Kral being hit with a game misconduct at 19:28. . . . Spokane was 1-3 on the PP; Everett was 1-5. . . . G Dustin Wolf stopped 27 shots for Everett, four more than Spokane’s Bailey Brkin.


Tweetoftheday

No comment from Hurricanes on Memorial Cup bid . . . Silvertips’ sales booming . . . Winterhawks sign first-round pick

MacBeth

D Rasmus Rissanen (Everett, 2009-11) signed a two-year contract with Örebro (Sweden, SHL). This season, he had three assists in 31 games with Jokerit Helsinki (Finland, KHL).


ThisThat

The WHL’s deadline for teams to declare an official interest in bidding to be the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament was May 31.

The Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals had made no secret of the whlfact that they were all-in. The Blazers and Rockets made their intentions known at news conferences; Victoria didn’t hold a news conference but general manager Cam Hope said on numerous occasions that his organization would bid.

However, May 31 came and went and there was nary a word from the WHL. June 1 . . . June 2 . . . June 3 . . . nothing.

On the morning of Monday, June 4, Bruce Hamilton broke the silence. Hamilton is the president and general manager of the Rockets; he also is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors.

Hamilton told Kelowna radio station AM 1150 that four teams had filed letters of intent with the WHL office and that those four teams were Kamloops, Kelowna Victoria . . . and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Hamilton even went out of his way to point out that the Hurricanes “will have a good opportunity. They will have a real good hockey team.”

Until that moment, there hadn’t been even the smallest of hints that would have indicated the Hurricanes had an interest in bidding on the event.

On Monday, a WHL spokesperson told me that the league “will be issuing a release on this matter at the appropriate time.”

As of Tuesday evening, there hasn’t been anything official from the Hurricanes or from the WHL office.

In fact, the only thing that I have seen from Lethbridge came in the form of a Tuesday tweet from Kaella Carr of CTV-Lethbridge.

So we are left to wonder if Hamilton spoke out of turn, or is there more to this than meets the eye?

One supposes that we will find out whenever it is deemed to be the appropriate time.


One team that apparently didn’t express official interest in bidding on the 2020 Memorial Cup was the Everett Silvertips.

It’s really too bad that American teams seem to be on the outside looking in when it Everettcomes to bidding on the Memorial Cup, because it would be interesting to see how fans in the Everett area would respond.

According to figures compiled by the WHL, the Silvertips averaged 5,686 fans through 12 home playoff games this spring, trailing only the Regina Pats (6,484 for three games) and Victoria Royals (5,726 for six games).

In the regular-season, Everett’s announced average attendance was 5,129, good for seventh in the 22-team league. That was up from 4,865 in 2016-17.

This season, the Silvertips finished atop the 10-team Western Conference, then reached the WHL championship final where they lost in six games to the Swift Current Broncos.

On Tuesday, Zoran Rajcic, the COO of Consolidated Sports Holdings, which owns the Silvertips, released a statement that read, in part:

“This last Saturday, we experienced a response and demand in Silvertips hockey from our community like we’ve almost never seen before.

“Our commitment to providing a first-class service to our season-ticket holders resulted in a projected boost of 500 new season tickets, adding to a 92 percent retention from this last season. It’s proof that our region’s thirst for the game has developed into a full passion.”

The Silvertips play in the Angel of the Winds Arena, which, according to the WHL Guide, has a capacity of 8,149.


Apologies to members of the 1980-81 Victoria Cougars, who won the WHL championship. In a piece I posted here Monday night, I made mention of the fact that Victoria had never VicCougarsplayed in a Memorial Cup tournament. That was in error. . . . The Cougars won a thrilling seven-game championship series from the Calgary Wranglers that spring. . . . Here’s what I wrote as part of an essay on the 1981 Memorial Cup that was played in Windsor:

Jack Shupe, a veteran of the western Canadian coaching wars, was running the Cougars. Shupe had last been to the Memorial Cup tournament in 1973 with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The Cougars actually trailed the Calgary Wranglers 3-1 in the WHL’s best-of-seven final before rallying. They didn’t win the WHL title until Terry Sydoryk broke a 2-2 tie at 18:07 of the third period of Game 7. An empty-netter by Grant Rezansoff made the final score 4-2.

The Cougars had finished on top of the West Division, their 121 points (60-11-1) leaving them eight ahead of the Portland Winter Hawks.

The Cougars’ offensive leader was centre Barry Pederson, whose 147 points left him third in the scoring race, just 13 points off the lead.

Pederson added 36 points in the playoffs, second behind the 43 points put up by Calgary’s Bill Hobbins.

Pederson was supported by Rezansoff, who totalled 27 playoff points after a 97-point regular season, Rich Chernomaz (113 regular-season points), Torrie Robertson 111), Brad Palmer, Paul Cyr, Bud McCarthy and Mark Morrison. This was a team that could score — witness its league-high 462 goals.

But it was Fuhr who dominated this team. He was the primary reason for it surrendering only 217 regular-season goals, 49 fewer than any other team.

The Cougars opened the playoffs by sweeping the Spokane Flyers in four games. They then took apart the Winter Hawks in four straight.

That sent them into the final where they fell behind the Doug Sauter-coached Wranglers, who featured goaltender Mike Vernon, 3-1 in games before roaring back to win their first WHL championship since they entered the league in 1971.

“Fuhr was the difference,” Sauter said. “There’s no doubt he’s an all-star.”

This would also mark the first Memorial Cup appearance for a team from Victoria.


The Portland Winterhawks have signed F Gabe Klassen and G Lochlan Gordon to WHL Portlandcontracts. . . . Klassen, from Prince Albert, will turn 15 on June 30. He was taken in the first round, 19th overall, of the 2018 bantam draft. This season, he had 52 goals and 37 assists in 31 games with the bantam AA Prince Albert Mintos. He led the league in goals and points. . . . Gordon, from Edmonton, was a third-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft. Gordon, 15, played this season with the Northern Alberta Xtreme bantam prep team, going 12-5-0, 2.68, .891, with four shutouts in 18 games.


WHL teams that have signed 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

1 Edmonton — F Dylan Guenther.

2. Kootenay — D Carson Lambos.

3. Prince Albert — D Nolan Allan.

4. Calgary — F Sean Tschigerl.

5. Kamloops — F Logan Stankoven.

6. Saskatoon — F Colton Dach.

8. Lethbridge — F Zack Stringer.

11. Medicine Hat — F Cole Sillinger.

12. Vancouver — F Zack Ostapchuk.

14. Tri-City — D Marc Lajoie.

15. Brandon — F Jake Chiasson.

17. Spokane — D Graham Sward.

19. Portland — F Gabe Klassen.

20. Edmonton — D Keegan Slaney.

——

The WHL teams that have yet to sign their 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

7. Red Deer — F Jayden Grubbe.

9. Prince George — F Craig Armstrong.

10. Seattle — F Kai Uchacz.

13. Victoria — D Nolan Bentham.

16. Red Deer — D Kyle Masters.

18. Kelowna — F Trevor Wong.

21. Prince George — G Tyler Brennan.

22. Moose Jaw — F Eric Alarie.


The Seattle Thunderbirds have signed F Conner Roulette to a WHL contract. Roulette, a 15-year-old from Winnipeg, was a second-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . This season, he played for the bantam AAA Winnipeg Hawks, putting up 52 goals and 49 assists in 34 games. He led his league in goals, assists and points.


Inde Sumal, the president and CEO of a Vancouver-based private equity firm, is leading the charge to build a new arena on B.C.’s Lower Mainland. Sumal sees a facility with about 10,000 seats somewhere in Surrey, which has a population of more than 500,000 people. . . . Kenneth Chan of dailyhive.com has more right here.


TheCoachingGame

Ben Simon is the new head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. He takes over from Todd Nelson, who left last week to join the NHL’s Dallas Stars as an assistant coach. . . . Simon, 39, is from Shaker Heights, Ohio. He spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Griffins.


The San Antonio Rampage, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, have signed Drew Bannister as their head coach. He had been the head coach of the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. Bannister spent three seasons as the Greyhounds’ head coach and is the CHL’s reigning coach of the year. The Greyhounds were 136-50-18 under Bannister, winning two division titles and, this season, the OHL’s regular-season championship. This season, they set franchise records with 55 victories and 116 points.


Tweetoftheday