Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering how long we can keep treading water . . .

Scattershooting2

If you’re a regular in these parts, you will have noticed that I took a couple of days away from here earlier this week. It wasn’t anything serious, but I had to recharge my batteries so that I could continue treading water.

After all, isn’t that what we’re doing as we pretend to be battling the virus that seems to be everywhere. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we don’t seem to be winning this war. At least not at this point, not with the virus now sending its variant friends into battle.

Here in B.C., our premier, John Horgan, suggested that we all “dig down a little deeper,” never mind that some of us have been digging for more than 10 months now.

On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, urged us to “do more.” Sorry, Dr. Henry, but some of us don’t know what more we can do. Haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March 11. Ordering groceries online. Haven’t travelled from Kamloops since Sept. 20. I could go on and on but you get the point.

Once upon a time, I spent 17 years at the Regina Leader-Post. In the first few years (aka before Conrad Black bought the joint and started milking it dry), employees were able to take part in various seminars. One of them dealt with the medium of mixed messages.

And we certainly are seeing a whole lot of those these days.

Remember when 300 positives tests in a day was cause for near panic? Now we’re seeing 400 or 500 a day and nothing changes. Ten or 12 people die every day and nothing changes. Did deeper, we’re told. Do more.

Last week, from Tuesday through Friday, the four western provinces reported 4,812 new cases and 140 deaths. (B.C. was 1,952 and 35; Alberta, 1,829 and 47; Saskatchewan, 953 and 38; and Manitoba, 478 and 20.)

Guess which province lifted some restrictions about 10 days ago and then watched as shoppers flocked to big box outlets as though it was Boxing Day? Hey, Manitoba, I’m looking at you.

And guess which province announced Friday that it will be easing up on restrictions early in February? Hey, Alberta, you realize that Friday (543 and 14) wasn’t a good day. Right?

No matter. The numbers come out — more than 20,000 Canadians now have died of this scourge. Ontario lost 1,658 citizens in January, which was the province’s deadliest month of the pandemic. So far.

The politicians offer condolences to the families of the dead. Others shrug. And life goes on.

A friend who works in our local hospital — which has experienced 79 positives among staff and patients over the past few days — posted this on social media on Friday night: “As I’ve said before, burnt out is what we felt MONTHS ago. We’re well beyond that now, I don’t even know what it’s called now.”

And no matter how you look at it . . . the end isn’t in sight.

So by all means . . . let’s ease up on restrictions and let’s not worry about these troublesome variants until some point down the road. Let’s not concern ourselves with showing the healthcare workers — the doctors, nurses, aides, cleaning crews et al — the respect they are due; after all, they’ve only been working in this mess for going on a year now. The teachers? What about them? Retail workers? Restaurant workers? Who?

Let’s just keep on keeping on, doing the same dance we’ve been doing for most of a year. But, that being the case, let’s stop thinking there will be a different outcome. After almost a year, you would think our dancing feet would be sore enough that we would want to try something else. But . . . no.

BTW, did you know that Perth and southwest Australia are into a full five-day lockdown after discovering the area’s first case in almost 10 months? Contact tracing has started and they’re ramping up their testing. When the music stops, they change the dance.

Doesn’t seem to be any mixed messages Down Under.

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There . . . I feel better.


F Brandon Sutter enjoyed the first three-goal game of his NHL career on Monday night as the host Vancouver Canucks dismantled the Ottawa Senators, 7-1. . . . Some notes from Jesse Campigotto of CBC Sports’ The Buzzer:

“Brandon Sutter can look forward to the next family get-together now. It took him close to 800 regular-season and playoff games, but the Vancouver forward became the sixth member of his clan to score an NHL hat trick. Brandon joined his dad, Brent, who had six hat tricks, and uncles Brian (7), Darryl (3), Rich (1) and Duane (1). Brandon also could be moving up the family goals rankings soon. With 147 career regular-season goals, he’s just two behind Rich for fifth place. Brent leads with 363, followed by Brian (303), Ron (205, but no hat tricks) and Darryl (161).”



Looking for a good read to kill a few hours in these pandemic times? You can’t go wrong with Broken, from Don Winslow, who also brought us The Power of the Dog, The Cartel and The Border, among other books. While those three novels were epic tales centred on the Mexican drug trade, Broken is six short stories that are oh, so much fun. Give it a try and thank me later.


No doubt you are aware that those who vote on entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame came up with a zero this time around, meaning the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens won’t be walking into the hallowed hall.

Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports:

“The HOF can bury its head in the sand and try to pretend the steroid era didn’t exist, but Bonds is in the record books as baseball’s home run leader and he’s indisputably one of the best to ever play the game. He was well on his way to a Cooperstown-worthy career before the steroids — I mean, he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded in 1998 (a year before it’s believed he started juicing) and that should be an automatic induction.

“Instead of completely shunning these obviously legendary talents that were tied to a league-wide steroid problem, why not just start a steroid wing of the HOF and let them have a semi-tainted induction that matches their semi-tainted careers?”



A year ago, Robert Saleh was on the coaching staff of the San Francisco 49ers, who would lose, 31-20, to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Here’s what he told Pro Football Talk Live about trying to shut down QB Patrick Mahomes: “You’ve got to be relentless. He has ridiculous arm talent. But any time you’re a pass rusher, just understand that he might do his little old man jog in between plays where it looks like his feet hurt. Don’t kid yourself.” . . . Saleh is the New York Jets’ new head coach.


Paperless


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, with a message for the NFL:

“Just letting you know, we are on to your little trick of using replay challenges to ram extra commercials down our baby-bird-like throats.

“One recent game, there was a challenge of a catch at the sideline. The first replay shown on TV provided crystal clear proof that it was a legal catch. Case closed in five seconds, right?

“Wrong. As with every challenge, TV cut away to a commercial. And then another. And another. SIX commercials later, we were allowed back to the football game, although by then I had forgotten who was playing.

“Don’t insult what’s left of our intelligence after the hammering of our skulls by the events of the past year.”

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“San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced on his 72nd birthday that he’d gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, telling AP: ‘Sciencewise, it’s a no-brainer,’ ” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “In other words, good shot selection.” . . .

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Hockey Winnipeg announced Saturday that it has cancelled the remainder of its 2020-21 season. From its website: “Effective Jan. 30, 2021, the board of directors and executive members of Hockey Winnipeg have made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the 2020-21 regular hockey season and playoffs. . . . This decision is not closing the door on hockey this year, just Hockey Winnipeg regular-season and playoff games. This will allow for area associations within Hockey Winnipeg to provide local programming for the balance of the season as public health restrictions may allow.” . . . Hockey Winnipeg said that it “and our area associations will be working to provide fair refunds to our members over the next few months.” . . .  

The Chicago Blackhawks cancelled a Saturday practice “out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19.” . . . The Blackhawks, who dropped a 2-1 decision to visiting Columbus on Friday night, are scheduled to play the Blue Jackets again tonight. . . . Chicago has three players on the COVID-19 protocol list — D Adam Boqvist, F Alex DeBrincat and F Lucas Wallmark. . . .

A Saturday night AHL exhibition game between the Henderson Silver Knights and visiting San Jose Barracuda was halted after the second period due to COVID-19 protocol. . . . The Silver Knights later announced the suspension of play wasn’t due to a positive test from their players or staff. . . . On Sunday, the Barracuda revealed that one of its players had tested positive with the result having arrived during the game. . . . The Silver Knights were leading 1-0 on a goal by former Kamloops Blazers F Jermaine Loewen. . . .

F Marco Rossi, 19, captained the Austrian team at the 2021 World Junior Championship after having tested positive for COVID-19 in November. After the tournament, he joined the Minnesota Wild, which had selected him ninth overall in the 2020 NHL draft. He had yet to play for the Wild, thanks to what was speculated to be an upper-body injury. On Saturday, the Wild announced that Rossi has gone home to Austria to recover from complications due to COVID-19. There isn’t a timetable for his return. . . .

The Montreal Canadiens pulled F Josh Anderson from Saturday’s game with the Calgary Flames with what head coach Claude Julien said was flu-like symptoms. Anderson tested negative for COVID-19, but will be tested again on Sunday. . . .

F Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils didn’t play in Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the host Buffalo Sabres. The Devils said it was a “COVID-related absence.” . . .

D Andrej Sekera of the Dallas Stars didn’t play in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the host Carolina Hurricanes. Sekera had played in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes. The team said Sunday’s absence was “in accordance with the league’s COVID protocols.”


Mustard


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Or, for more information, visit right here.


Late

Did anything go wrong in Prince George? . . . Sask. Hockey Hall gets new name . . . Arena now bears Kennedy’s name


MacBeth

F Jozef Balej (Portland, 1999-2002) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Freiburg (Germany, DEL2). He was released by Žilina (Slovakia, Extraliga) on Tuesday. The team captain, he had three goals and eight assists in 31 games. . . . Freiburg now has five imports on its roster but is allowed to dress only four per game. The four other imports are d-men Radek Havel and Antti Kauppila, and forwards Brad McGowan, and Josef Mikyska. . . .

F Kris Versteeg (Lethbridge, Kamloops, Red Deer, 2002-06) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Växjö (Sweden, SHL) after obtaining his release from Avangard Omsk (Russia, KHL). In 11 games, he had three goals and five assists. He left Avangard in late October and returned to Canada. . . .

F Tim Bozon (Kamloops, Kootenay, 2011-15) has signed a two-year contract extension with Genève-Servette (Switzerland, NL A). He has three goals and seven assists in 35 games.


ThisThat

Richard Matvichuk, in the final season of a three-year contract and with a new general manager looking over his shoulder, was going to have to win the WHL championship PrinceGeorgethis season in order to earn a new contract as the head coach of the Prince George Cougars.

Of course, that was never going to happen, what with the Cougars in a rebuilding mode.

So . . . with the team eight points from a playoff spot and only 16 games left to play, general manager Mark Lamb fired Matvichuk following a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Vancouver Giants on Wednesday night.

The Giants, at 35-13-3, are atop the B.C. Division, 35 points ahead of the Cougars (16-30-6), who have lost 11 straight games (0-8-3).

Lamb, who spent seven seasons (2009-16) as the GM/head coach of the Swift Current Broncos, has taken over as head coach and will be in that role tonight when the Cougars meet the Rockets in Kelowna.

He will be joined behind the bench by associate coach Steve O’Rourke and Nick Drazenovic, who has been moved up from director of player development to assistant coach, at least for the rest of this season.

If you’re wondering why things went south in Prince George this season, it may have had something to do with the schedule. As bad as 16-30-6 may sound now, the Cougars were 11-14-3 as they began an insane 11-game road trip that was interrupted by the Christmas break and included three separate jaunts into the U.S. Division. They went 3-8-0 on that trip, came home and beat Kelowna twice, and are 0-8-3 since those victories.

Team management has since gone on the record as saying it will never again accept such goofy scheduling.

Matvichuk, a 46-year-old native of Edmonton, will find another coaching job. After all, he was the ECHL’s reigning coach of the year when he left the Missouri Mavericks to sign with the Cougars on June 2, 2016. The Mavericks had finished with the ECHL’s best regular-season record (52-15-5) in 2015-16.

In Matvichuk’s first season in Prince George, the Cougars went 45-21-6 to finish atop the B.C. Division, a first for the franchise since it relocated from Victoria for the 1994-95 season.

You may recall that the Cougars went all-in that season. On Nov. 18, 2016, they acquired D Brendan Guhle from the Prince Albert Raiders in exchange for two players, as well as first- and third-round bantam draft picks. Then, on Jan. 5, 2017, the Cougars got Russian F Nikita Popugaev from the Moose Jaw Warriors for two players, including F Justin Almeida, and a couple of bantam draft picks. Popugaev gave the Cougars 25 points, nine of them goals, in 44 games over two seasons before going home 13 games into last season. Almeida has produced 184 points, 71 of them goals, in 150 games with the Warriors.

It turned out for naught as the Cougars lost a first-round playoff series, 4-2, to the Portland Winterhawks.

Last season, the Cougars were sellers — they unloaded the likes of F Kody McDonald, D Josh Anderson and D Dennis Cholowski — as they wound up 24-38-10, leaving them fifth in the B.C. Division and 20 points from a playoff spot.

Somewhere in all of this, the Cougars’ ownership group decided to make a u-turn in regard to its philosophy. Henceforth, the goal won’t be to aim for a single-season splash, to get caught up in what some people still see as the cyclical nature of major junior hockey. Rather, the owners decided that the Cougars are going to build through the draft with the goal of having a team that makes the playoffs on an annual basis. Make the playoffs, the thinking now is, and let the chips fall where they may.

Unfortunately, none of that does Matvichuk any good because he’s gone.

Remember, too, that hockey teams go through coaches these days the way   a Dairy Queen outlet goes through ice cream.

The Cougars are the second of the WHL’s 22 teams to make a coaching change this season. Kelowna was 4-10-0 when Jason Smith was fired and replaced by Adam Foote. The Rockets are 17-16-5 under Foote.

After last season, eight WHL teams changed head coaches. Seven teams, including the Cougars, also brought in new general managers.

The Cougars decided not to renew Todd Harkins’ contract after last season. He had been in the organization for four seasons, the first one as head scout and director of player personnel, the last one as general manager.

It was Harkins who hired Matvichuk.

With Lamb coming in and Matvichuk into the last year of his contract, many observers thought they could see the writing on the wall. Late on Wednesday night, their eyesight was proven to be 20/20.

Lamb signed a four-year contract with the Cougars, and now he gets to hire his own head coach. Or maybe he puts himself into the position on a permanent basis. His last stint as a head coach, with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, didn’t end the way he would have liked when he was dismissed after one season (2016-17).

Unless Lamb, 54, is one of those rare people who is able to shake free from the coaching bug, he may have a desire to give it another go with the hope that at some point he will be able to walk away on his terms.


F Ilijah Colina left the Prince George Cougars last week.

At the time, the Cougars said that Colina, a 19-year-old from North Delta, B.C., who was in his third WHL season, had gone home for “personal reasons.”

In a tweet (above) that was posted on Thursday evening, Colina’s mother, Carrie, has shed some light on her son’s departure.

The next time you attend a junior hockey game, take a minute to think about the stress the players face, almost all of them living away from home as they chase a dream, with some of them starting to realize that that’s all it is — a dream.

In 151 regular-season games, 68 with the Cougars and 83 with the Portland Winterhawks, Colina has 18 goals and 37 assists.


An update on F Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks, who has been rehabbing a knee injury, from Vince Sapienza, a sports reporter with FOX 5 in Las Vegas:


The Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame has undergone a name change after receiving a $500,000 donation from the family of the late Ted Knight, a former co-owner of the saskhallRegina Pats.

It has been renamed the Ted Knight Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame.

From a news release:

“Ted Knight’s children — Tracey, Kevin and Kyle — wanted to honour their father’s name and his love for the game of hockey. Through this title sponsorship of the Hall, the Ted Knight Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame will remain a hub for hockey in the province and honour those individuals who have made a lasting impression on Saskatchewan hockey.”

Knight, who was born in Selkirk, Man., in 1939, played for the Winnipeg Braves when they won the 1958 Memorial Cup.

In 1986, Knight, Bill Hicke, Morley Gusway, Jack Nichol and Huddy Bell bought the Regina Pats. Knight was part of that ownership group for 10 years.

Knight, along with sons Kevin and Kyle, owned the Knight Automotive Group. It started with Crestview Chrysler Dodge in Regina and now has 15 dealerships in the three Prairie provinces.

Knight died on Oct. 13, 2017, at the age of 78.

The Hall of Fame is located in the Credit Union I-Plex, the home arena of the Swift Current Broncos.


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