WHL vaccine announcement on tap? . . . Blazers add Holick to staff . . . Winterhawks sign Czech defender

It has been suggested to me that the WHL will have an announcement of some WHL2sort regarding COVID-19 precautions today (Friday) or early next week. . . . No, I have no idea what that announcement might involve, but you have to think it will involve something to do with mandatory vaccinations for all involved. After all, that is exactly what the OHL and QMJHL have done, and the WHL also plays under the CHL umbrella. . . . It can’t be easy for the WHL with 22 teams scattered across four provinces and two states, meaning that there are a whole lot of health officials with whom to deal. . . . But training camps are less than three weeks away and there are nine exhibition games scheduled for the Sept. 10 weekend. In other words, as Danny Gallivan would have said, time is of the essence.

In the meantime, some Thursday headlines from WHL country . . .

Laura Sciarpelletti, CBC Saskatchewan — COVID-19 is once again ramping up in Sask. Today spike in new cases with 141, 51 higher than Wednesday. The province hasn’t recorded this many new cases in a single day since May 30. Two more deaths. 40% of all new cases are in the 20-39 age category.

Tri-City Herald — Public health officials fear they will see a surge in deaths from COVID-19 and even higher demand for hospital care as the delta variant drives new daily cases higher. . . . The Tri-Cities area had 470 new COVID-19 cases announced on Thursday, bringing the confirmed cases reported since last Friday to 220 per day on average. That’s up from an average of 58 new cases per day just three weeks ago.

CBC News — Alberta reports 550 new COVID-19 cases, highest daily case count since late May.

Byron Hackett, Red Deer Advocate — Most cases since late May. And on Monday, the province stops most contact tracing and isolation. Good times.

CBC News, 6:26 p.m. PT — Alberta is rowing back on plans to end COVID-19 protocols including isolation requirements, asymptomatic testing and contact tracing by Aug. 16, a government source told CBC News. The province’s health guidelines will remain in place for now, the source said.

CHAT News Today — A month ago on July 18, there were fewer than 10 active COVID-19 cases in Medicine Hat. Now the city has a record-high 361 active cases, with 12 people currently in hospital.

CBC News — British Columbia announced 513 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death on Thursday, as the seven-day rolling average of new cases in the province rises to its highest level since May 21. . . . A total of 81 people are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up 40 per cent from last Thursday, when 58 people were in hospital with the disease and have doubled from their 2021 low 18 days ago.

KIRO7 Seattle — Washington superintendent Chris Reykdal requested Gov. Jay Inslee to issue an executive order to make the COVID-19 vaccine a requirement for all K-12 school employees.

KATU News — Oregon — like Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana — has more people in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic.

——

Guy Flaming, host of The Pipeline Show, asked his Twitter followers this week: “Should the WHL follow the lead of the OHL and QMJHL mandating full vaccination for ‘all players, coaches, trainers, team and league staff, officials, volunteers and billet families?’ ” . . . By Thursday night, he had received 335 responses with 79.1 per cent voting “Yes.”

——

Asked about a mandatory vaccination policy by Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist, Dan Price, the Royals’ general manager and head coach, replied: “We don’t have an answer to that. The league is assessing that now. They are working with each health jurisdiction, including in the U.S.”

——

CTV News has reported that the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers are discussing whether to follow the Winnipeg Jets, who have mandated that all employees, event staff and guests must be fully vaccinated and that masks will be required at all home games in 2021-22. In a statement to CTV, the Oilers ssaid: ”We are in on-going conversations with Alberta Health, Canadian venues, the NHL and other key stakeholders. Once finalized, we will communicate our plan at an appropriate time in advance on the 2021-22 NHL season.” . . . The Oilers own the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings and both teams use the same facility. So you are free to wonder whether a decision one way or the other by the Oilers will impact the Oil Kings. . . . As for the Calgary Flames, who own the WHL’s Hitmen, they told CTV in a statement: “We aren’t in a position to make any comments on that at this point. See you in September.”


As expected, the Kamloops Blazers introduced Mark Holick as their new associate coach on Thursday. . . . Holick, 52, will work alongside general manager and head coach Shaun Clouston. . . . Holick replaces Cory Clouston, Shaun’s brother, who left the organization on Wednesday, saying that he wanted to spend more time with his daughter. . . . Holick, the U-18 prep head coach at Yale Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., for the past three seasons, is a former WHL coach of the year. He was the head coach of the Kootenay Ice (2007-10) when he was honoured as coach of the year for 2009-10. He also was the head coach of the Prince George Cougars for three-plus seasons (2013-16). . . . In his playing days, Holick played four seasons (1984-88) with the Saskatoon Blades and New Westminster Bruins. . . . Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week has a story right here explaining how Holick ended up with the Blazers.


Arm


The Vancouver Giants have acquired F Ty Thorpe, 19, from the Brandon Wheat VancouverKings for a conditional sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2023 draft. . . . Thorpe, from Brandon, was selected by the Victoria Royals in the third round of the 2017 bantam draft. He was traded to the Wheat Kings in January 2018. In 136 regular-season games, all with Brandon, he had 10 goals and 20 assists. In the 2021 development season, he had three goals and three assists in 21 games.


The Portland Winterhawks have signed Czech D Marek Alscher to a WHL Portlandcontract. They selected him in the CHL’s 2021 import draft on June 30. . . . Alscher, 17, had one assist in four games while playing for Czech Republic in the recently completed Hlinka Gretzky Cup. . . . Alscher has spent the past two seasons playing in Finland with the Pelicans organization. In 2020-21, he had three goals and 11 assists in 27 games with the U-18 team. . . . The Winterhawks also hold the WHL rights to Danish D Jonas Brondberg, 20, who had six assists in 20 games in the 2021 development season. As a 20-year-old, he would be a two-spotter should he return.



The Saskatoon Blades have acquired F Brendan Lee, 19, from the Everett Silvertips for G Koen MacInnes, 19. . . . Lee, from Seattle, had two goals and four assists in 17 games in the 2021 development season. In 71 career regular-season games, he has 11 goals and eight assists. The Silvertips signed the updrafted Lee out of the Colorado Thunderbirds program. . . . MacInnes backed up Nolan Maier each of the past two seasons, going 18-7-2, 2.78, .901 in 31 games. . . . Maier is expected to return for his 20-year-old season, with one of two 17-year-olds — Ethan Chadwick or Austin Elliott — backing him up. . . . In Everett, MacInnes, who is from Burnaby, B.C., will pair up with Braden Holt, 18, in goal.


Pi


CBC News — Everyone working in long-term care and assisted living in B.C., including volunteers and personal care workers, will now be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

——

Rolling Stone — The Killers will require fans attending their New York City warmup gig on August 19th to be both vaccinated and show a negative Covid test.

——

Claudia Cautillo, CTV News — Queen’s University now among growing number of Canadian universities requiring all students, staff, and faculty returning to campus to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (Note: In the past couple of days, Carleton U, U of Guelph, U of Ottawa, U of Toronto, and Western all have gone public with mandatory vaccination protocols.)

——

The Victoria HarbourCats and Nanaimo NightOwls of baseball’s West Coast League may not be playing this season because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. The teams are owned by Shwing Batter Investment Group and it has announced that vaccinations will be mandatory for all players, coaches and staff members. The protocol also will apply to the Victoria Golden Tide, a new team that is to play in the Canadian College Baseball Conference. . . . “Our people are out in the community,” Jim Swanson, the organization’s managing partner, told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist. “Our programs travel — we take ferries, and cross borders — we cannot operate in a bubble. The programs are too complex.”

——

Proving that COVID-19 hasn’t forgotten about the stocks, Max Papis has tested positive so won’t be running this weekend in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series on the Indy road course. Papis, 51, was going to race for the first time since 2013 this weekend. . . . J.J. Yeley will replace Papis behind the wheel of the No. 17 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet Camaro.

——

CBC News: The Toronto International Film Festival says proof of COVID-19 vaccination won’t be required to enter its venues, but masks will be mandatory for anyone attending in-person screenings, and talent and media will be tested regularly.

——

KETV NewsWatch 7 — Nebraska health care systems will require employees to get vaccinated.

——

The New York Times — San Francisco will impose some of the toughest restrictions on unvaccinated people in the U.S., barring them from indoor dining, bars, gyms and more.


Cinderella


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.


Irony

Pandemic responsible for rash of WHL signings? . . . Co-owner: Cougars 1,500 fans a game from breaking even . . . Hanlon’s latest gig in German DEL

With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


After the Red Deer Rebels announced the signing of Arjun Bawa, a second-round selection in the 2020 bantam draft, on Thursday, Alan Caldwell, who keeps track of these things, tweeted:

“Bawa makes 15 of 22 second-rounds picks signed now. Add to 19 of the 22 first-rounders and that’s 34 of the first 44 picks from 2020.

“Five 3rd-rounders, one 4th and one 5th make 41 players signed from the 2020 draft already.”

And, as Caldwell also noted, the numbers “may actually be higher as some teams don’t announce signings.” (Note: There were more signings on Friday, too, with 21 of 22 first-round picks from 2020 now having signed.)

Whatever the numbers, I can’t ever recall a time when the WHL’s 22 teams signed so many players in such a short period of time. After all, the draft was held on April 22.

So . . . why the rush?

I had wondered if perhaps the WHL’s 22 teams were feeling more pressure than usual from leagues like the BCHL and USHL. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Two people with an understanding of the situation have told me that you likely can chalk it up to the pandemic. Unable to take vacations and with not a whole lot of other things on their plate at the moment, team executives simply have sped up the signing process.

And, no, neither Bill Gates nor 5G have had anything to do with it.



Wondering how much money the Prince George Cougars lost last season? Hartley Miller PrinceGeorgeof 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97 takes a look in his weekly Hart Attack column and it’s all right here. . . . On Tuesday, John Pateman, one of the team’s owners and the franchise’s president, took part in a virtual town hall with fans. At one point, he offered: “It’s been a struggle financially for the ownership group over the last several years. We’ve obviously lost a lot of money. I would suggest, last season, we were probably 1,500 fans short of paying all our bills per game, that’s without making the playoffs.” . . . Do the math, as Miller does in his column, and this looks a lot like about a $1-million loss. Yikes!


Married


Glen Hanlon is the new head coach of the Krefeld Pinguine of the German DEL. He finished last season as the head coach of DVTK Jegesmedvek in Slovakia. . . . Hanlon, 63, spent two seasons (2016-18) as the general manager of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants before going back to Europe where he gained considerable experience after spending the better part of four seasons on staff with the NHL’s Washington Capitals.


Paul McFarland has left his position as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs to take over as head coach of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. . . . McFarland spent three previous seasons (2014-17) as the Frontenacs’ head coach before joining the Florida Panthers for two seasons as an assistant coach. He then spent one season with the Maple Leafs. . . . In Kingston, he replaces Kurtis Foster, who was fired on April 29 after two seasons in the position.


Mike Rooney is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. Rooney, from Yellow Grass, Sask., spent last season working as a skating/skills coach with the Notre Dames Hound program in Wilcox, Sask. . . . Rooney replaces Kyle Adams, who was dismissed on Feb. 26. . . . Rooney is a familiar face in Saskatchewan hockey circles, but hasn’t done a whole lot of coaching. He was the GM/head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for two seasons (1995-97) and the GM/director of player personnel for the SJHL’s Hounds (1997-2000). . . . He also has considerable experience as an NHL and WHL scout.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x × y is less than y.”


Banjo


Oliver David of the Dubuque Fighting Saints has been named the USHL’s coach of the year for 2019-20. The Fighting Saints had the USHL’s best defensive record en route to finishing second in the overall standings. . . . Oliver spent one season (2016-17) as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, where he worked alongside general manager and head coach Mike Johnston. . . . You have to admit that Johnston’s managerial coaching tree is looking rather impressive. It includes Garry Davidson, the general manager of the Everett Silvertips; Matt Bardsley, the GM of the Kamloops Blazers and the Western Conference’s executive of the year; Grant Armstrong and Josh Dye, who both have gone on to scout with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning; Karl Taylor, the head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals; and Travis Green, the head coach of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. . . . It is somewhat interesting that Johnston, despite Portland being one of the WHL’s premier franchises, has never been saluted as executive or coach of the year. The Winterhawks are the reigning Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy holders as regular-season champions.



The B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame has cancelled its 2020 induction dinner that was to have been held in Penticton on July 24. It is expected that the 2020 inductees will be installed in the Hall of Fame at a celebration in the summer of 2021. The class features players Eric Brewer and Mattias Ohlund, official Jay Sharrers, builder Ray Stonehouse, and two teams — the 2002 Kootenay Ice and 2012 Penticton Vees.


The West Coast League says it still hopes to play baseball this season, despite the fact that five of its 12 teams have said they aren’t able to play because of restrictions having been placed on facilities by health officials and the fact that the U.S.-Canada border remains closed. That includes the Kelowna Falcons and Victoria HarbourCats, the league’s two Canadian franchises. Also out are the Bellingham Bells, Bend Elks and Corvallis Knights. . . . The WCL’s regular season was to have started on June 5. In a news release, the league said it now is “targeting early July for the return of baseball to our member cities.” . . . The WCL’s other franchises are located in Portland the Washington communities of Longview (Cowlitz Black Bears), Port Angeles, Ridgefield, Walla Walla and Yakima. . . .

Baseball Alberta announced on Friday that it has cancelled all sanctioned events and activities through Aug. 31. . . . The senior Red Deer Riggers immediately tweeted that their season was over, but they are looking forward to 2021 when they are to be the host team for nationals.


Grandma

WHL: Weekend games to proceed ‘at this time’ . . . Baseball’s WCL lands in Nanaimo for 2021

The WHL said Thursday afternoon that “at this time” weekend games scheduled for the Pacific Northwest will proceed.

As of early Thursday evening, 70 people in Washington state had been diagnosed with whlCOVID-19. That includes 11 people who have died. Fifty-one of those cases, and 10 of the deaths, have occurred in King County whose county seat is Seattle.

The Everett Silvertips are to play host to the Tri-City Americans tonight (Friday) and the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Silvertips are to visit the Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash.

The Silvertips are second in the U.S. Division, one point behind the Portland Winterhawks. The Thunderbirds, who are to visit the Kelowna Rockets tonight, are in possession of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.

On Thursday, Cassie Franklin, the mayor of Everett, took part in a news conference that also involved the Snohomish Health District. Among the recommendations announced was to avoid “non-essential gatherings/large groups of 50+ people and postponing/cancelling events if possible.”

Later, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was quoted in a statement as saying the league, the Silvertips and Thunderbirds “are closely monitoring the public health developments” in the Pacific Northwest.”

He added that “at this time,” weekend games in Everett and Kent, Wash., the home of the Thunderbirds, will go ahead.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the immediate health risk to the United States public is low,” Robison said in the statement. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will adopt additional health and safety measures as recommended by local health authorities.”

The Seattle Times has a look right here at other sporting events scheduled for that area, including Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, who are planning to go ahead with a Saturday night home game.

——

Meanwhile, officials in B.C. announced eight new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, all on the Lower Mainland, bringing the province’s total positives to 21. That includes four patients who have recovered.

The Vancouver Giants, who play out of the Langley Events Centre, are next scheduled to play at home on March 13 against Seattle. The Giants will visit the Thunderbirds on March 14, then play host to the Prince George Cougars on March 15.



ICYMI, baseball’s West Coast League will have a franchise in Nanaimo, B.C., beginning with the 2021 season. The team, which doesn’t yet have a name, will be the WCL’s 13th team and will be owned by the group that operates the Victoria HarbourCats. That group includes former Prince George Citizen sports editor Jim Swanson, who is the managing partner and will oversee operations with both franchises. . . . The wood-bat league features teams in B.C., Washington and Oregon. . . . There is a news release on Thursday’s announcement right here.



If the Brandon Wheat Kings finish third or fourth in the WHL’s East Division, they will get bumped from Westoba Place for the first round and will play their home games in Virden. . . . The Wheat Kings go into weekend play in second place in the East Division, five points ahead of the Winnipeg Ice and seven up on the Saskatoon Blades.


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

Scattershooting


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

——

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



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


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


ParallelParking


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


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

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

——

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


treadmill


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


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


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

——

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


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


Scattershooting on a Sunday while wondering if Kawhi will be able to survive financially in L.A. . . .

Scattershooting

While Pittsburgh was playing the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers on May 25, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli was struck on the chin by a piece off a broken back. He hasn’t played since. Now he says he’s through catching thanks to what was the sixth diagnosed concussion of his MLB career. . . . “That’s enough,” Cervelli, 33, told DKPittsburghSports.com on Sunday. “This time is different. I can’t live like this.”


I keep reading about how Kawhi Leonard left a few dollars on the table when he left the Toronto Raptors for the Los Angeles Clippers. Apparently, he signed for US$142 million over four years, when he could have stayed in Toronto for US$190 million over five years. While I understand the cost of housing is high in L.A., leaving that money on the table doesn’t mean that Leonard will be homeless, does it?


KidsMeal


The Curse of Hammy? Is it only a coincidence that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are 1-3 — with the lone victory over the woeful Toronto Argonauts — since someone made the horrible decision not to bring back Ian Hamilton for a third season as their senior reporter?

——

Of course, Saskatchewan football fans have been so wrapped up in the appearance of a giant gopher that they may not realize that their favourite team is struggling.

——

Patti Dawn Swansson (aka The River City Renegade) got in on the gopher madness with: “Summer swathing and happy banjo plucking came to a halt on the Flattest of Lands last week, after Gainer the Gopher went missing and was feared to be lost in a corn maze or abducted by body-snatching aliens. Left behind was a hairball that looked like Chucky’s pet rodent.”

There’s a whole lot more right here.



Congrats to the Victoria HarbourCats for grabbing a West Coast League playoff spot with an 8-1 victory over the visiting Bellingham Bells on Sunday afternoon. The HarbourCats, who will be in the post-season for the third time in four seasons, finished atop the North Division, winning the first-half title at 18-10. The lost left Bellingham at 16-11. . . . There still are rumblings that the WCL is working to get a franchise into Kamloops, but has yet to find a baseball fan with deep enough pockets to get involved.


RippedPants


It was on July 4, 1939, when Lou Gehrig stood at home plate in Yankee Stadium and spoke about being the “luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Now, 80 years later, Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot writes of that speech: “Words that still resonate . . . In another 80 years will anything a current athlete says be remembered?”


Here’s what Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun wrote about Don Cherry this weekend:

“One thing that hasn’t been confirmed for the next season of Hockey Night In Canada: the return of Don Cherry and Coach’s Corner. Rogers is cutting all over the place, which included the removal of Bob McCown on radio and television and Doug MacLean doing the same. Cherry is handsomely compensated for his work. Not sure if this is a place they want to go with the 85-year-old.”

Nothing definitive in any of that, but, oh boy, did the stuff hit the fan on social media. Gotta think the split was about 50-50, too, on whether folks want Grapes back on their TV sets.

——

The debate even morphed into whether Don Cherry should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I’m thinking if he’s in, Paul Henderson is, too.


OrganDonation2


Dorothy, my wife of more than 47 years, is preparing to take part in her sixth straight Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sept. 22. She also is one of the Walk’s organizers and a co-founder of the Kamloops Kidney Support Group. Oh, and she also helps organize a Christmas luncheon for dialysis patients, transplant recipients and kidney donors. . . . If you’re new here, she had a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013, and she wants to give something back. . . . If you would like to help out, you are able to make a donation right here.


Scattershooting on a Tuesday as we await the start of a playoff game . . .

Scattershooting

For the second straight season, the Victoria HarbourCats of baseball’s West Coast League will be giving away a funeral package as an in-game promotion. The lucky winner gets a package that includes a will, investment/insurance advice and a funeral. The big day is June 26 when the Wenatchee AppleSox are to provide the opposition. . . . No, you don’t have to use it, especially the last part, that very day.


Laughjoggers


With the Kelowna Rockets having missed the WHL playoffs — for only the second time since they moved from Tacoma to the Okanagan for the 1995-96 season — there are a lot of hockey people looking on with a great deal of interest and wondering how Bruce Hamilton, the team’s president and general manager, will turn the team into a Memorial Cup contender in time to host the 2020 tournament.


“I’ll concede Duke star RJ Barrett of Canada is an outstanding basketball player,” writes RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “That said, what kind of goof goes by the name RJ?”

——

One more from Currie: “Reuters reports a South African sow that creates paintings which sell for up to $4,000 has been named Pigcasso. I was thinking Francis Bacon, Ham Gogh or Porkelangelo.”



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, had a hot take on Pacman Jones the other day. Here is part of it:

“A couple of weeks ago, Pacman Jones was arrested at an Indiana gaming casino on charges of disorderly conduct, public intoxication, intimidation and resisting arrest. . . .

“I have lost count of the number of times that Pacman Jones has been arrested for a wide variety of improprieties to include things like disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and — my favorite one — ‘felony assault with a bodily substance’ that was a result of him spitting on a police officer.  To date, none of those charges has resulted in any significant spans of jail-time . . .

“Jones’ most infamous brush with the law involved his presence at a Las Vegas strip club where he proceeded to ‘make it rain.’ That evidently created a scuffle that resulted in gunfire that resulted in multiple people being wounded. Jones got a suspended sentence out of that mess and lost a big civil suit to two of the wounded individuals. Believe it or not, that was more than a decade ago. Time flies when you are having fun.”

——

The Sports Curmudgeon was at his best on Tuesday when he posted a piece that he chose to headline: Operation Varsity Blues. . . . Let me tell you, he is at his best — that means curmudgeonly with a good dose of sarcasm — in this one as he writes about “the college admissions/bribery scandal.” . . . You are able to read all of it right here.


Headline at TheOnion.com: NCAA launches investigation into why it wasn’t making millions off recent college-admissions scandal.


IHOP


“UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo resigned after he was indicted for allegedly taking $200,000 in bribes in a fraudulent college-admissions scheme,”  notes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “That’s what he gets for using his hands.”

——

Perry, again: “New Denver DB Pacman Jones was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication, intimidation and resisting arrest at an Indiana casino. In other words, Chargers 4, Broncos 0.”



Australia has banned any visitor with a domestic violence charge on their record from entering the country. As Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, noted: “Well, there go any potential plans for NFL Australia.”


ICYMI, Barack Obama, the former U.S. president, filled out a March Madness bracket and has Duke winning it all. What about President Trump? Richmond, B.C., blogger TC Chong wrote: “Trump can’t decide between Trump U and the Electoral College.”

Hamilton plays big in Calgary . . . Ex-WHL player commits to U of North Dakota . . . Psst! Wanna win a funeral?


MacBeth

F Ryan Harrison (Prince Albert, Medicine Hat, Everett, 2007-13) signed a one-year contract with Jegesmedvék Miskolc (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). Last season, with the Colorado Eagles (ECHL), he had 13 goals and 21 assists in 63 games. . . .

F Edgars Kulda (Edmonton, 2012-15) signed a tryout contract with Zlín (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL), he had one goal in 31 games. . . .

F Kyle Chipchura (Prince Albert, 2001-06) signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). Last season, with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL), he had five goals and six assists in 56 games. . . .

F Tim Bozon (Kamloops, Kootenay, 2011-15) signed a one-year plus option contract with Genève-Servette (Switzerland, NL A). Last season, with Kloten (Switzerland, NL A), he had seven goals and five assists in 44 games.


ThisThat

Steve Hamilton is back in the WHL, less than two months after leaving, this time as head coach of the Calgary Hitmen. The former Edmonton Oil Kings coach was introduced as Calgarythe 10th head coach in Calgary’s history on Tuesday morning.

The length of Hamilton’s contract wasn’t revealed, although it is a multi-year deal.

Hamilton replaces Dallas Ferguson, who left the Hitmen on June 26 after one season on staff. Ferguson cited family reasons in leaving Calgary. He has since surfaced as an assistant coach with the U of Denver Pioneers.

Hamilton, 44, spent the previous eight seasons with the Oil Kings, four as an assistant coach and the last four as head coach. He helped the Oil Kings twice win the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions (2012, 2014) and to a Memorial Cup title in 2014.

Hamilton and assistant coach Ryan Marsh were fired by the Oil Kings on May 29. Marsh has since signed on as an assistant coach with the Saskatoon Blades.


With the Calgary Hitmen having hired Steve Hamilton as head coach, it means that eight of the WHL’s 22 teams will open the new season with head coaches who weren’t there when last season began.

To refresh your memory, here’s a look at the new guys, with the former head coaches in parentheses:

Calgary Hitmen — Steve Hamilton (Dallas Ferguson, assistant coach, U of Denver Pioneers).

Edmonton Oil Kings — Brad Lauer (Steve Hamilton, head coach, Calgary Hitmen).

Kamloops Blazers — Serge Lajoie (Don Hay, now an advisor with the Blazers).

Regina Pats — Dave Struch (John Paddock, remains general manager).

Saskatoon Blades — Mitch Love (Dean Brockman, director of hockey operations and head coach, Swift Current Broncos).

Swift Current Broncos — Dean Brockman (Manny Viveiros, assistant coach, Edmonton Oilers).

Tri-City Americans — Kelly Buchberger (Mike Williamson).

Vancouver Giants — Michael Dyck (Jason McKee).

Of those eight coaches, four — Hamilton, Struch, Love and Brockman — were working in the WHL last season.


The Medicine Hat Tigers made official Tuesday what you’ve been reading about here for RyanSmitha couple of days — they have added Ryan Smith to their coaching staff. . . . Smith, 44, spent the past three seasons as associate coach with the Swift Current Broncos, helping them win the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions last season. He left the Broncos after Dean Brockman was named director of hockey operations and head coach. . . . With the Tigers, Smith fills the void created when assistant coach Bobby Fox was named director of player personnel to replace Carter Sears.


After one season with the Vancouver Giants, Dean Chynoweth has signed on as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. . . . Chynoweth, 49, was the associate coach with the Giants last season, after not coaching in 2016-17. . . . Prior to that, he was the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche affiliates in Cleveland and San Antonio for four seasons (2012-16). . . . He was an assistant coach with the New York Islanders for three seasons (2009-12). . . . He has other WHL experience, having coached the Seattle Thunderbirds (2000-04) and Swift Current Broncos (2004-09). He was also the general manager in Swift Current. . . . In Carolina, Chynoweth will be working with head coach Rod Brind’Amour and assistant coach Jeff Daniels.


F Murphy Stratton, who played 45 games with the Calgary Hitmen in 2016-17, has committed to the U of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. . . . Stratton, from Los Angeles, will turn 19 on Oct. 3. Last season, he had 16 goals and 37 assists in 54 games with the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild. . . . But, wait, doesn’t he lose his NCAA eligibility after playing in the WHL? . . . “NCAA bylaws mandate that playing a single game in the WHL will lead to, at a minimum, a loss of one full year of eligibility,” writes Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald. . . . According to Schlossman, Stratton now has committed to UND and been told by the NCAA that the penalty for those 45 WHL games will be “one year and seven games.” . . . The plan is to spend another season with Wenatchee and then join UND for 2019-20, although he won’t be able to play until the eight game of the 2020-21 season. . . . Stratton was selected by the Hitmen in the eighth round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. He had one goal and three assists in those 45 WHL games. . . . Schlossman’s story is right here.


The Victoria HarbourCats of baseball’s West Coast League are at home to the Corvallis Knights tonight (Wednesday). But the game almost will be secondary to the promotion, harbourcatsand isn’t that often the case in minor league baseball, which is something to which major junior hockey teams should be paying more attention. . . . You see, they are giving away a funeral package at tonight’s game. Yes, they are. . . . Jim Swanson, the former sports editor of the Prince George Citizen, now is the HarbourCats’ managing partner. . . . “He’s the one who came up with the idea of holding a prize draw for a funeral package,” writes Jack Knox, the Victoria Times Colonist’s terrific columnist. “Actually, he borrowed the notion (or, more accurately, stole it like Ricky Henderson) after googling weird and wonderful promotions when he became the team’s general manager in 2014.” . . . As Knox points out, though, there also is a serious side to Swanson’s idea. “When Swanson’s uncle drowned off Salt Spring Island a year and a half ago, the grieving family had the additional burden of figuring out what to do in the absence of a will or other arrangements. “He did not have his affairs in order,” Swanson says. So, the draw (fans just have to fill out an entry form at the game) is a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder to prepare for what, ready or not, awaits us all.” . . . Still, this is a promotion that fits right in what all the wonderful and whacky things that go on in minor league baseball. . . . Knox’s column is right here.



I was fortunate enough to get into the newspaper business when there really were ink-stained wretches on the job. I worked two years at the Brandon Sun before the computer-age came along. By the time computers arrived, I was at the Winnipeg Tribune. Yes, there were veteran newspaper people there who thought computers were just a passing fad. . . . Anyway, back in the day it really was a different era, one that was full of characters. . . . The Los Angeles Times is in the process of moving its offices and Bryan Curtis of The Ringer recently took a tour of the old place and offers up some memories of what used to be. It’s all right here.


Tweetoftheday