WHL hires lobbyists to meet with B.C. health officials . . . Hoping to discuss return-to-play protocol . . . CFL makes some changes

The WHL has two lobbyists from the Vancouver-based Bluestone Consulting Group working to lobby officials in the B.C. government as it hopes to make its way through the pandemic and get back on the ice in the fall.

The WHL suspended its 2019-20 regular season on March 12 and later cancelled the whlremainder of its season, including the playoffs.

Hoping to stick to a schedule that would have it start the 2020-21 season in late September, the WHL has contracted with lobbyists Mark Jiles, the principal owner of Bluestone, and Rob Nagai, its vice-president.

Jiles has more than 20 years worth of experience “in helping organizations achieve their strategic communications, government relations, goals and objectives.” Among other things, he spent four years (2002-06) on the board of directors of the bid and organizing committees for the 2006 World Junior Championship, the bulk of which was held in Vancouver.

Nagai has been with Bluestone since January 2018. Prior to that, he spent almost seven years working as a fundraiser with the B.C. New Democratic Party that now governs the province.

According to details filed with the B.C.’s Office of the Registrar and Lobbyists, the WHL wants to lobby Adrian Dix, B.C.s Minister of Health, and the Provincial Health Services Authority, which “oversees the co-ordination and delivery of provincial programs and highly specialized health-care services.”

The WHL is hoping to be “included (in the) B.C. government’s restart program.”

The WHL also “would like to discuss a Return to Play protocol” with the government. “This would detail what it would take to reopen the league and these regulations and guidelines would ultimately apply” to five B.C. teams in the WHL.”

Jiles and Nagai began working for the WHL on May 11, with a projected end date of July 31.

The arrangement with Bluestone doesn’t have anything to do with lobbying the B.C. government for financial aid.

The CHL, the umbrella under which the WHL operates, along with the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, has hired Bluesky Strategy of Ottawa to lobby Canada’s federal government in the hopes of garnering financial aid for its 52 Canadian teams.

I reported on that in a piece that was posted here late on Tuesday night.


Bears


The CFL is hoping to get its 2020 season underway at some point in September. And if it does end up playing a season of some sort, it won’t end with a Grey Cup game in Regina as had been planned.

Regarding the start of the season, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a news release: “Barring some huge development, like a vaccine for COVID-19, it now seems clear we can rule out playing games this summer.

“There are several reasons, including the continuing restrictions on assemblies, travel and border crossings. Notably, several provinces and municipalities have already decided to prohibit until Sept. 1 all sporting events featuring large gatherings.”

Ambrosie also admitted that “a cancelled season is also possible . . . it’s too soon make a sure call at this point.” As he put it: “We are not announcing or promising a return this fall.”

Meanwhile, the CFL also announced a change to its format for the Grey Cup game. Originally scheduled for Regina on Nov. 22, the championship game, if it is played, will take place in the home stadium of the finalist with the best regular-season record in 2020. Depending on when the season would start, the championship could be decided some time in December.

Hamilton will remain as the host city for the 2021 game, with Regina now to play host in 2022.

The CFL also cancelled its Touchdown Atlantic game that was to have been played in Halifax on July 25. The game was to have featured the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders.


Greeneggs


Edmonton is hoping to be one of the so-called hub cities should the NHL get up and running again. If you are wondering whether NHL players crossing the U.S.-Canada border to get there would be exempt from the self-isolating rules in play right now, well, here is Alberta Premier Jason Kenney:

“Obviously the players and their support staff would need to comply not only with our own public health orders but also with the federal 14-day quarantine requirement for international travellers arriving from abroad.”

The NHL has said it would need a three-week training camp for its players before games could be played. So that period of self-isolation takes it up to five weeks.



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 and also put a smile on her fact by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “The average man does not get pleasure out of an idea because he thinks it is true; he thinks it is true because he gets pleasure out of it.”


For the record, The Sports Curmudgeon, who is based in the Washington, D.C., area, is hoping that the CFL survives this pandemic. As he writes: “I enjoy CFL games; often the CFL Friday night game is more interesting than other Friday night sports offerings on my cable system and I tune in.  For purely selfish reasons, I hope that Commissioner Ambrosie is successful in finding ways to keep the CFL afloat; it has been around for longer than the NFL and it provides an interesting alternative football experience.” . . . For more of the curmudgeonly one’s ruminations on this subject, click right here.


Corn

CHL, teams settle minimum-wage lawsuit for $30 million . . . Next up: Concussion-related action . . . Gaglardi: It all comes down to testing

Six years later . . . if you were hoping for a clear-cut winner and loser, well, as Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is?”

The CHL and its leagues have agreed to pay $30 million to settle three class-action CHLminimum wage-related lawsuits that were filed six years ago.

The suits were filed by former players against the three major junior leagues — the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League — that operate under the CHL umbrella. They later were certified as class action.

“This settlement does not mean that we agree with the plaintiffs,” the CHL said in a statement. “It means that we wanted to end the lawsuits so we could continue to focus on being the best development league in hockey.” 

Ted Charney of Toronto-based Charney Lawyers PC, who was the lead for the plaintiffs, told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News: “This has been a very long, hard-fought battle, effectively gloves-off litigation for several years. We had to fight the (political) lobbying, which we lost miserably on, but we won in all the court rooms.”

The lawsuits were filed in 2014, with players claiming that the major junior teams are businesses and that players, as employees, should be eligible for minimum wages and overtime pay. The players also requested back pay.

While the lawsuits were before the court, the major junior leagues, which are of the belief that the players are student-athletes, lobbied various governments and were successful in gaining exemptions from minimum-wage laws.

As TSN’s Rick Westhead said in an on-air interview: “Over the last few years, the CHL has been very diligent about going to provinces and U.S. states where there are CHL teams and trying to successfully have minimum-wage laws amended so that players are exempt from minimum-wage legislation.”

In the west, governments in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Washington state all amended labour codes to provide exemptions. Oregon politicians chose not to provide an exemption.

According to the CHL and the plaintiffs, they agreed on a settlement in February with the help of a mediator.

“Earlier this year we met with the lawyers for the plaintiffs and agreed on a settlement that would see the end of the court case and an award of $30 million which will cover their lawyer’s fees, funder’s fees and other legal costs,” the CHL said in its statement. “The remainder will be distributed to players in the class. We did this because cases like these are very expensive and are a distraction to the league and as we had publicly disclosed, we had $30 million in insurance for these lawsuits.”

Lawyers are expected to get about $10 million off the top, with the remainder to be split among players. There are believed to be about 4,000 players who played from 2010-19 eligible to share in the money — players who have signed NHL contracts aren’t eligible — but it’s unlikely that all will apply.

It is believed that the CHL and its teams will pay half of the agreed-upon sum, with the CHL’s insurance paying the other half. Interestingly, the CHL purchases its insurance through Hockey Canada, which means that insurance premiums for the governing body of minor hockey in Canada are likely to rise. Those costs could be passed on to minor hockey players throughout the country.

If all 60 CHL teams are on the hook for a share of the payout, each will pay $250,000. But there are seven Americans teams involved, five of them in the WHL. If the American teams, which were exempted from the class action, aren’t required to pay, each of the remaining 52 teams would pay more than $288,000.

One of the five players who was in on the lawsuit from the beginning, Samuel Berg (Niagara IceDogs, OHL), is to receive a $20,000 honorarium. Each of the other four — Travis McEvoy (Saskatoon Blades, Vancouver Giants, Portland Winterhawks, WHL), Kyle O’Connor  (Kootenay Ice, WHL), Thomas Gobeil (Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL) and Lukas Walter (Tri-City Americans, WHL; Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL) — is to get $10,000.

As Westhead reported, with the amendments having been made to minimum-wage laws in various provinces and states, “This does not open the door to future claims like this. . . . it’s unlikely the CHL is going to have to worry about a case like this down the road.”

Unless, of course, there are changes in governments and new faces choose to rewrite the employment standards legislation that includes the exemptions from minimum-wage requirements.

“There was a belief the provincial changes showed the CHL to be on the right side of the law,” Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet wrote, “but legal advice indicated the case could continue for up to another decade. That would cost millions in fees and, according to sources, the insurance fund topped out at $30 million. Clearly, that was a major factor in deciding to settle the case.”

What’s next? According to a tweet from Westhead: “After a settlement approval hearing (likely Aug/Sept), eligible players will need to file claims with a court-appointed administrator to get a payout.”

So, as the lawyers like to say on TV, in summation . . . the winners and losers.

Well, the only winners would appear to be the lawyers.

Yes, I would suggest that everyone else loses.

The CHL teams lost because financial filings necessitated by the lawsuit allowed people on the outside to learn just how much money some of these franchises make. Yes, major junior hockey no long is a mom-and-pop operation. It is a big business.

Players, past and present, certainly didn’t win. Yesterday’s players aren’t likely to get more than a few thousand dollars out of this settlement and, as far as today’s players are concerned, nothing is going to change in terms of what they are paid.

Perhaps the biggest winners, aside from the lawyers, of course, are WHL fans in whlcities that won’t lose their teams.

Three years ago, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, issued a statement  after the lawsuit was certified as a class-action. In that statement, Robison said: “If WHL clubs were required to provide minimum wage, in addition to the benefits the players currently receive, the majority of our teams would not be in a position to continue operating.”

That is a position that he repeated more than once or twice over the past three years. Presumably those unnamed franchises won’t cease operations now. Although considering the uncertainties presented by the pandemic-related situation in which all teams now find themselves, you wonder how they will handle getting a bill for more than a quarter of a million dollars.

——

“Well, major junior hockey operators in Canada got rid of one of the biggest headaches they’ve had in their history and all it cost them was $30 million, much of it paid by insurance, and a ton of negative headlines. Now they’re free to go back to paying their ‘student athletes’ less than minimum wage,” writes Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.

“Sounds like a pretty good deal for them. Because essentially what has happened when the CHL minimum-wage lawsuit was settled to the tune of $30 million is that the former players who bravely and persistently fought for this chunk of money were able to win in court for themselves and the roughly 3,600 other players in the lawsuit. But in the bigger picture, the Canadian Hockey League won in the far more important political arena by convincing each province to consider its players student athletes, which exempts it from annoying employment standards legislation. Once they managed to do that, they were happy to settle. It’s believed it cost each team about $250,000.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.

——

——

——

It should be pointed out that what came to be known as the minimum-wage lawsuit doesn’t have anything to do with another class-action lawsuit facing the CHL, its three leagues and Hockey Canada. . . . James McEwan, a former WHL player, filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada in January 2019. The lawsuit later was refiled with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include the OHL and QMJHL. . . . Preliminary discussions regarding the certification of the lawsuit as class action were to have been held in Vancouver in March. If the pandemic didn’t play havoc with that, all parties involved will be awaiting Madam Justice Neena Sharma’s ruling. . . . McEwan played four seasons (2004-08) in the WHL, splitting his time between the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds.


Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, says the league is Kamloops1“trying to figure out what the season’s going to look like . . . when it’s going to start.”

Appearing on TSN 1040 in Vancouver, Gaglardi chatted with Jeff Paterson and The Moj (aka Bob Marjanovich) on Friday.

Gaglardi, who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, frequently mentioned the importance of testing in terms of getting the economy rolling again.

Even for the WHL, he said, “it really all comes down to . . . testing.”

“There’s now a swab,” he said, “that you can get that you can swab your mouth and it tells you in 30 seconds whether you’ve got the virus. If this is something that we can get out into the mainstream market, how far are we from having fans in arenas?

“We’re really waiting for something . . . it may not be a vaccine . . . I’m certainly not counting on a vaccine in 2020. But I do think we’re going to have better testing soon, more access to testing, and somewhere we’re going to get some drug that’s therapeutic that will mean a 65- or 70-year- old guy can go to a hockey game and not worry about dying, and if he comes down with a virus then we can treat him and he’s going to be OK. We need to get to there to get this economy back going.

“At some point I think we’ll get there, with a combination of testing, tracing and hopefully something’s that therapeutic that allows people to feel safe to go to events like hockey.”

Asked about playing WHL games without fans in the building, Gaglardi replied: “The WHL is a gate-driven league. Without people in the buildings, it’s hard to see how we can operate for a great length of time.”

The WHL, according to Gaglardi, has got “contingency plans like every league there is. The Western Hockey League’s not the only league in that position . . . we’ll look at all kinds of scenarios.

“At the same time, too, we’ve got an obligation . . . to develop young hockey players, so if our league starts up a little late . . . we’ve got contingency plans to get the kids into Kamloops and to develop them. We’ve got all kinds of schemes of games and day games and things we might do . . . we take that obligation seriously.”

The complete interview is right here.

Gaglardi’s appearance on the Vancouver radio station came one day after his NHL and AHL organizations were hit with more furloughs, these ones to run through July 3.

Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News reported that the latest cuts included “most of the remaining front office,” but excluded anyone who is a vice-president or higher.

“The Stars’ hockey operations department was not affected by the furloughs, but management, coaches and scouts took 20% pay cuts,” DeFranks wrote.

His complete story is right here.


The junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League will have an expansion franchise in 2020-21 — the Chilliwack Jets. That begins the number of teams in the league to 13. . . . Clayton Robinson, the majority owner, will be the general manager and head coach. . . . The Jets will play out of the Sardis Sports Complex.



Honda Indy Toronto, which had been scheduled for July 10-12, has been cancelled. The move came after the City of Toronto cancelled event permits for major events for July and August. . . .

Organizers for what was to have been Ironman Canada’s return to Penticton, B.C., announced Friday that the event has been cancelled. It had been scheduled for Aug. 30. The Ironman last was held in Penticton in 2012, ending a run that began in 1983. . . .

The GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon has been cancelled for 2020. The 41st running of the event had been scheduled for Oct. 11. Last year’s race drew more than 8,000 participants. . . .


Nominate1


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.


The U.S. national junior team has filled out its coaching staff by adding four assistants — Ted Donato (Harvard), Theresa Feaster (Providence), Kris Mayotte (U of Michigan) and Steve Miller (Ohio State). All will work alongside head coach Nate Leaman of Providence College. . . . Feaster, the director of men’s hockey operations at Providence, is the first woman named to the coaching staff. She will be Team USA’s video coach. . . . She is the daughter of Jay Feaster, a former NHL general manager with the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning. He now is the Lightning’s vice-president of community hockey development. . . . The 2021 World Junior Championship is scheduled for Red Deer and Edmonton, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.


Nominate2

Winterhawks in receivership . . . Regular-season champions for sale . . . Owner has filed for bankruptcy

The Portland Winterhawks, who won the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s regular-season champions for 2019-20, are in receivership and, according to a news release from the league, a FOR SALE sign is blowing in the wind.

The Oregonian, a Portland newspaper, has reported that the company that owns the Portlandfranchise, Portland Winterhawks Inc., filed for bankruptcy on Thursday.

According to Jeff Manning of The Oregonian: “Winterhawks owner William Gallacher allegedly failed to repay money his companies had borrowed in 2018. The lender, Bridging Financing, went to court in Toronto earlier this month and claims it took control of several of Gallacher’s companies, including the hockey team.”

Manning reported that “several” companies owned by Gallacher filed in Portland on Thursday.

According to Manning, the WHL “can terminate” a franchise if it “enters bankruptcy or is in receivership for more than 10 days.” As well, Rip City Management LLC, which operates the two arenas in which the Winterhawks play, could rip up their lease.

It’s unlikely any of that will happen, though.

From court documents: “At present, the Receiver has no indication that PWH is in financial distress apart from its involvement in the Bridging Loan. Accordingly, the Receiver views it as important to maintain the operations of PWH and the Winterhawks’ franchise to preserve their value for the benefit of all creditors of the Debtors in the Canadian Proceeding.”

Gallacher is a Calgary-based oil man, and you may be aware that the oil-and-gas sector is having a tough time of it these days. Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks in 2008. Under his ownership, along with the leadership provided by Doug Piper, the team’s president, and Mike Johnston, the vice-president, general manager and head coach, things turned around and what once was the WHL’s most-pathetic franchise played in four straight championship finals (2011-14), winning in 2013.

Manning’s complete story is right here.

According to figures compiled by the WHL, the Winterhawks’ average announced attendance for 32 homes games in the truncated 2019-20 season was 5,540, the fifth-highest average in the 22-team league. That was a decrease of 376 from 2018-19, when the Winterhawks had the fourth-highest average announced attendance.

The WHL suspended its regular season on March 12 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It later cancelled its season, including playoffs.

The Winterhawks finished with the WHL’s best record (45-11-7), their 97 points leaving them one ahead of the Everett Silvertips (46-13-4). Thus, Portland was awarded the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champion.

——

The WHL released a statement on Sunday afternoon, saying that it is “working closely” with all involved “to ensure the smooth transition to new ownership in short order.”

According to the WHL, Doug Piper, the Winterhawks’ president, and Mike Johnston, the vice-president, general manager and head coach, “will remain with the team and are committed to conducting business as usual . . .”

The WHL statement also included this: “. . . we expect that there will be a great deal of interest in obtaining ownership” of the Winterhawks.

So . . . while the first paragraph would seem to indicate there is a sale on the horizon, it would seem that process of locating buyers is just getting started.

You are free to wonder how easy/difficult it will be to sell one of the WHL’s premier franchises in these pandemic-dominated times? After all, I would suggest that there is no guarantee as to when, or even if, the 2020-21 season will start.

——

OK. I have to admit that I burst out laughing when I read one sentence in the WHL’s news release.

Here it is: “There will be no further comment from the WHL or Portland Winterhawks at this time.”

I take you back to Nov. 28, 2012, when, you may recall, the WHL dropped a sledge hammer on the Winterhawks for what it called “a series of violations of the WHL regulations.”

The last line of that news release, which didn’t spell out what the Winterhawks had done to warrant such punishment, read: “The Western Hockey League will not make any further public comments on this matter.”

The Winterhawks followed up by issuing their own news release, spelling out the regulations they had violated. It wasn’t long before Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was busy doing damage control with lots of public comments.

For old time’s sake . . .

The WHL news release on the sanctions is right here.

The Winterhawks’ news release explaining those violations is right here.

——

——

The 22-team WHL has four community-owned teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos — whose fates are controlled by local shareholders. As such, each of them holds an annual meeting at which financial statements are presented to shareholders.

The other 18 all are privately owned, so their financials aren’t available.

While the Winterhawks may be in better shape than some of Bill Gallacher’s other business interests, you can bet that all of the WHL teams are feeling the squeeze brought on by the pandemic. The WHL had 54 regular-season games remaining in its season when the plug was pulled, so teams lost out on that revenue. And then the playoff qualifiers took big hits with the cancellation of those games.

And now, with so many questions and so few answers floating in the ether, you have to wonder how preparations for a new season — the selling of sponsorships and season tickets — are progressing.

Granted, it’s still early to some, but if you’re an owner or a general manager training camps should be opening in slightly more than three months. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed. What of bringing over import players? And what about the billet situation — how is that going to play out with a highly infectious virus lurking who knows where?

The Winterhawks were the first WHL team to issue furloughs and layoff notices and to impose paycuts late in March. The Kamloops Blazers, another privately owned club, were close behind. Their majority owner, Tom Gaglardi, also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars. He is the president of Northland Properties, which is almost completely reliant on the hospitality industry, meaning there is little in the way of revenue these days.

It’s safe to assume that other WHL teams, too, have done what they can to trim expenses as they are mired in a situation where they aren’t able to generate revenue.

Whether any of them end up going the way of the Winterhawks remains to be seen.

But you have to think some things are going to look a whole lot different by the time we come out the other end of his situation.

In the meantime, if you’ve been wanting to own a WHL franchise, you could do a whole lot worse than the Winterhawks, the defending regular-season champions.

CFL commish admits season may not happen . . . Oregon gatherings gone through September . . . WHL salutes Kennedy


The news was anything but good for followers of the CFL and WHL on Thursday.

Randy Ambrosie, the CFL commissioner, was in Ottawa, appearing before a House of Commons standing committee on finance. The CFL is asking for as much as $150 million in financial aid to help it survive the pandemic.

At one point, Ambrosie said the CFL’s future is “very much in jeopardy.” He also said that “our best-case scenario for this year is a drastically truncated season. And our most likely scenario is no season at all.”

Meanwhile, in Oregon, the home state of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, Gov. Kate Brown announced some guidelines, one of which involves the cancelling of all concerts, sporting events and large gatherings through the end of September.

You have to think chances are pretty good that Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, will issue similar guidelines at some point.

The 22-team WHL has four teams in Washington state.

These guidelines likely refer to teams playing in front of fans. But the WHL is a ticket-driven league and it is hard to imagine its teams playing in empty arenas for any length of time.


Sheldon Kennedy has been honoured by the WHL with its Governors Award. . . . According to a WHL news release, the award “is the highest honour the WHL bestows on whlan an individual who has been associated with the league.” The award “is presented annually to an individual who, through their outstanding hockey and overall contributions to the game, has impacted on the growth and development of the WHL.” . . . Kennedy, now 50, is from Elkhorn, Man. He played three (1986-89) seasons with the Swift Current Broncos, survived a bus accident in which four teammates died, and was a key contributor to the team that won the 1989 Memorial Cup. After Kennedy’s pro career ended, it came to light that he had been sexually abused by general manager/head coach Graham James while with the Broncos. Kennedy moved on from that to found, with Wayne McNeil, the Respect Group Inc., and to campaign endlessly for the safety and empowerment of young people and young athletes. . . . The WHL’s news release is right here.


James Patrick, the head coach of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, is among the U of North Dakota’s Hall of Fame class of 2020. Patrick, a defenceman, played two signs with what was then the Fighting Sioux. As Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald points out: “No former UND player has played more NHL games (1,280) or seasons (21) than Patrick, who suited up for the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres. Patrick wore an ‘A’ for both the Rangers and Sabres.” . . . The Hall of Fame induction is set for Oct.9 as the Fighting Hawks football team meets visiting Missouri State.


Even the geese have had enough . . .


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “The country’s present supply of foreign news depends largely on how best a number of dry goods merchants in New York think they can sell underwear.”


Swear


Tennis Australia is looking ahead to the 2021 Australian Open and wondering it it will even take place. “Worst-case scenario is no AO,” Craig Tiley, who heads up Tennis Australia, told the Australian Associated Press. “Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.” . . . ICYMI, Wimbledon has been cancelled for 2020, and the French Open, which had been scheduled for May 27 through June 7, now will run from Sept. 27 through Oct. 11. The French Tennis Federation had announced earlier that it would run from Sept. 20 through Oct. 4, but moved it back another week on Tuesday. . . . The U.S. Open is scheduled to open on Aug. 24, but that still is up in the air with an announcement due at some point in June. . . .

NBA teams have the OK from the league to open practice facilities, with some restrictions, of course, but Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, isn’t interested just yet. . . . “The problem obviously is that because we can’t test people, then we can’t assure everybody’s safety, whether they’re basketball players or anybody else,” Cuban told The Athletic’s 77 Minutes in Heaven podcast. “Even though we can try to take all different kids of precautions, it’s just not worth it — particularly when our guys are staying in shape and they’re going outside and shooting on outdoor hoops and working out in various ways. So I just don’t think the risk is worth the reward.”



Jason Tatarnic is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Tatarnic, 47, spent eight seasons (2005-13) as head coach of the Maritime Junior League’s Woodstock Slammers, before moving west as GM/head coach of the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs for four seasons (2014-18). . . . The Chiefs dismissed him a few days before the 2018 RBC Cup, the national junior A tournament in which they were the host team. In fact, the Chiefs went on to win the tournament. . . . After that, Tatarnic went to work with Hockey Pathways, which bills itself as a family advisory service whose mission “is to get you to the next level.” . . . In Estevan, Tatarnic takes over a franchise that is to be the host team for the 2022 Centennial Cup. . . . He takes over the Bruins from Chris Lewgood, who was fired on April 15 despite getting the team to the playoffs in each of his seven seasons. That included a seven-game loss in the SJHL final in the spring of 2018.


Call

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering if we need more bananas . . .

Scattershooting

Let me tell you a little about where we’re at in our household right now, and I have a feeling there are others in the same boat.

If you’re not aware, Dorothy and I are both considered at risk these days; she has a compromised immune system from a kidney transplant; I have heart disease.

So we are trying hard to limit exposure to other people, which is why we ordered groceries online for the first time a few days ago. She had the list; I was at the keyboard. Bananas were on her list.

I found them on the store menu. Hmm, how many did we want? The first option was 1. Well, I thought, when you’re in the store you see some singles, some pairs, three together, even four in a bunch. Yeah, four bananas will do for a while, I thought. So I clicked on 4.

When we got home after picking up the groceries a few days later, we discovered that 4 meant 4 bunches with about 10 bananas in each bunch.

So . . . Dorothy quickly drove over to a friend’s home and left half of the bananas outside her door. (Yes, she phoned first.)

I got up the next morning and looked out a window that overlooks our driveway. Hmm, I didn’t park our Tucson that way. I had backed in; now it was parked looking at me. What happened? I had a brief thought that someone had stolen it and brought it back. Hey, c’mon, these are bizarre times.

Finally, it struck me that Dorothy had driven it after I did. And heaven forbid that she would park the same way that I did. Right?

A couple of days later I was lolling in my recliner late in the afternoon when Dorothy asked: “Are you going to shower today after you didn’t yesterday?”

Upon further reflection, I couldn’t remember whether I had showered the previous day. Eventually, I gave up trying to remember. But I can say that I absolutely cannot remember the last time I went one day without showering.

And then when I awoke Saturday morning, I thought it was Friday. But not knowing what day it is . . . well, that is happening with more and more regularity.

Hey, welcome to our new normal and I don’t mean Normal, Ill.


Clown


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “The Tokyo Olympics have been rescheduled for 2021 but will still be known as the 2020 Games, organizers say. ‘We couldn’t agree more,’ said 12 of the Big Ten’s 14 athletic directors.”

——

Perry, again: “Triple-double … Double-double … Solo-double? Former standout soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo announced she is pregnant with twins.”


ICYMI, Agent Orange met with sports leaders on Saturday and told them that he would like to see games being played in August and September. (Agent Orange? Saw that in a column by Ed Willes of Postmedia on Saturday.)

The conference call included folks from the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, WNBA, LPGA, PGA, IndyCar, Breeders’ Cup and yes, WWE and UFC. For whatever reason, there was no one included from, among others, the NCAA, NASCAR or the WHL.

It wasn’t long after word got out about the orange one wanting games in August and September that Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, said: “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.”

And that should take care of that.

Thank you, Governor.

——

There has been talk about the NBA perhaps taking teams into Las Vegas and playing some kind of neutral-site games.

Yeah, I’m sure NBA players are going to want to leave their families to go into self-isolation in Las Vegas and be tested and tested and tested just to play a few games. What if one of them tested positive? What then? And how on earth would the NBA be able to keep players in self-isolation without even one of them going rogue?

So let’s scratch that idea.

——

BTW, the logistics of pulling off even one NFL game under the circumstances in which we now live — and in which we still could be living in August and September — are mind-boggling.

It’s a big enough production under normal circumstances. Now throw in all that goes into testing more than 50,000 people, in one way or another, and it becomes all but impossible.

And what of the support staff? To give you some idea of how many people work a pro game, there are more than 1,300 workers at a New York Mets’ home game just to deal with food service.

And it only would take one person in the facility to test positive and, well, it would be: HERE WE GO AGAIN!

So let’s scratch that idea, too.


Crayons


No one knows when this is going to end, or what it’s going to look like at the other end.

But I would be curious to know how many schedules the WHL is going to prepare.

Under normal circumstances, the WHL’s 2020-21 regular season, with each team scheduled to play 68 games, would begin on or around Sept. 25. But if teams aren’t able to open training camps in late August, a bit more than four months away, and they start pushing things back, does the WHL also prepare a schedule that would open in late October and would have teams playing, say, 54 or 56 games? And on and on it would go . . . Keep in mind that the WHL has teams in two states and four provinces, each of which operates independently in these bizarre times.



Headline at TheOnion.com: Kawhi Leonard misses second consecutive family game night, citing load management.


Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “MLB has canceled its scheduled games in Mexico City, Puerto Rico and London, but hopes remain for the Aug. 13 game between the Yankees and White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa, where ‘Field of Dreams’ was filmed. The site adjoins a cornfield and has long been a tourist attraction; an 8,000-seat stadium was built for this and future MLB visits.”



The 12-team Western Canada Baseball League announced Sunday that it has “established a timeline that will guide our decisions this spring.” . . . For starters, the league will decide by May 2 if it will be able to get in a complete 2020 season. . . . “There are also provisions for shortened seasons that would start either on or about Father’s Day or on or about Canada Day,” a news release stated. “Similar dates exist for three or four weeks prior for these shortened seasons for logistics to be put in place.” . . . The league also announced that “governors have agreed that if by early June 2020 health and travel restrictions are still such that the league cannon confirm a start date that the season would be cancelled.” . . . The WCBL has teams in Brooks, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Melville, Moose Jaw, Okotoks, Regina, Swift Current, Weyburn and Yorkton. . . .

——

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the PGA Championship will be held at that city’s Harding Park course from Aug. 6-9. It had been scheduled to run from May 14-17 at Harding Park. . . . Of course, keep in mind that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that he doesn’t anticipate seeing pro football in his state in August or September. . . .

Former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey died late Saturday in a New Orleans care home. His daughter, Ashley, said he had tested positive for the coronavirus a week previous. . . . He was 73. Dempsey was born without toes on his kicking foot and held the NFL record for longest field goal (63 yards) for 43 years. . . . He had been in assisted living for a number of years as he dealt with dementia. . . .

Aleksandar Prijovic, a Serbian soccer player, was given three months of home detention for violating a curfew that is in place because of COVID-19. He an 19 others were arrested in a hotel lobby bar in Belgrade on Friday. . . . Meanwhile, Kyle Walker, a defender with Manchester City, is in trouble after breaking lockdown conditions in England. He has apologized after holding a party involving two sex workers at this home.


Dinosaur


Here’s the Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, via Will Rogers: “If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out?”


A few thoughts from Patti Dawn Swansson: “Most of us follow our personal doctors’ advice. I mean, if told to take two aspirin and call ol’ sawbones in the morning, I take two aspirin and make that call. Yet when the finest medical minds in our country advise us what to do (stay the frig home) during the COVID-19 crisis, they are ignored by many among the rabble. I find that to be a most curious bit of business. Even more curious: Why would it take a celebrity athlete, singer or movie star doing a PSA to convince some that the safest place to be right now is behind our own closed doors? Seriously, you’ll listen to, say, Connor McDavid instead of Dr. Theresa Tam? The mind boggles.”

For more, click right here.


Pats to select first, plan on taking Bedard . . . NHL postpones draft . . . Opening of CFL season in doubt?

The Regina Pats will have the first selection in the WHL’s bantam draft. That was determined in the annual draft lottery that as held in the WHL’s Calgary office on Wednesday morning. . . . The draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . .

And what will the Pats do with that selection? Here’s Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post:

“Shortly after Regina was awarded the top pick via Wednesday’s lottery, GM John PatsPaddock revealed to the Regina Leader-Post that his team will indeed select blue-chip forward Connor Bedard, who has been granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada.”

Paddock told Harder: “We will be selecting him first. I would have said this regardless but the exceptional status made it even more obvious to everybody. There’s no secret with this. He’ll be a Regina Pat, that’s for sure.”

Harder’s complete story is right here.

So . . . you’re wondering how the Pats ended up with the first pick that actually originated with the Swift Current Broncos? Here’s how it happened . . . 

It all began on Jan. 9, 2018, when the Hurricanes traded G Stuart Skinner, F Giorgio Estephan and F Tanner Nagel to the Broncos for G Logan Flodell, F Logan Barlage, F Owen Blocker, D Matthew Stanley, first- and third-round picks in the 2020 bantam draft and a conditional second-rounder in 2021.

On Nov. 29, 2018, the Pats dealt F Jake Leschyshyn and F Nick Henry to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for F Jadon Joseph, F Ty Kolle, five bantam draft selections — including a 2020 first-rounder that had been Swift Current’s — and two conditional bantam draft picks.

That turned into an early selection when the Broncos, who won the WHL’s 2017-18 championship, finished with the league’s poorest record in 2019-20.

When the lottery was held yesterday, a Prince George Cougars’ ball fell, allowing them to move up from fourth to second — that is the maximum advancement permitted under draft rules. . . . The Cougars also hold the 11th and 17th picks, from the Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers, respectively.

The first-round order:

1. Regina Pats (from Swift Current Broncos via Lethbridge)

2. Prince George Cougars

3. Moose Jaw Warriors

4. Tri-City Americans

5. Saskatoon Blades (from Regina Pats)

6. Red Deer Rebels

7. Seattle Thunderbirds

8. Kelowna Rockets

9. Victoria Royals

10. Vancouver Giants

11. Medicine Hat Tigers (from Saskatoon)

12. Calgary Hitmen

13. Brandon Wheat Kings

14. Winnipeg Ice

15. Prince Albert Raiders

16. Lethbridge Hurricanes

17. Prince George Cougars (from Medicine Hat)

18. Spokane Chiefs

19. Kamloops Blazers

20. Edmonton Oil Kings

21. Swift Current Broncos (from Everett Silvertips)

22. Prince George Cougars (from Portland Winterhawks)

For the second and all ensuing rounds, the draft order follows the inverse order of the 2019-20 standings.

——

The WHL held its inaugural two-round draft of U.S. prospects on Wednesday afternoon. . . . All of the selections are listed right here.


Dinos


The NHL has postponed its annual draft, but hasn’t provided a new date. It was to have been held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, June 26 and 27. . . . The NHL also postponed its scouting combine and awards ceremony. The combine would have taken place in Buffalo, from June 1-6, with the awards ceremony in Las Vegas on June 18. . . .


Bob McKenzie, the godfather of hockey insiders, reported on TSN on Tuesday that the NHL has asked teams to look into the availability of their home arenas through the end NHLof August.

Emily Kaplan of ESPN later chatted with Nick Foligno, the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here is part of their conversation:

“I don’t know if I should be saying this, but I will. I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense for us to play into August. I think that’s pretty dangerous coming into another season. You want to have a great season the following season, and I don’t know if that gives guys enough time to rest and recover.

“If you think of the amount of games some guys would play, you’re adding on another 20 games, plus a full season, then playoffs again. That’s dangerous for some players, especially star players — the guys fans want to see — they’re usually playing deep into the playoffs, so we have to be cognizant of their health and safety. We want to make our league as great as it could be going into this big TV deal that everybody knows about. There’s so much that goes into it.”

The complete conversation is right here.


The 2020 North American Indigenous Games have been postponed until some point in 2021. The Games had been scheduled for K’jipuktuk/Halifax, N.S., July 12-18. . . . There isn’t a date set for next year but organizers are hoping for some time during the summer. . . . The 2020 B.C. Summer Games that had been scheduled for Maple Ridge have been cancelled. They were to have been held July 23-26. Maple Ridge will play host to the Games in 2024. . . . The 2020 Canada 55+ Games that were to have been held in Kamloops have been postponed to 2021. They had been scheduled for Aug. 25-28. . . . These Games are held every two years in late August. They have been held in even-numbered years, but that rotation will be broken in 2021. . . .


The Russia-based KHL has cancelled the remainder of its season. The KHL was into its playoffs and had hoped to be able to finish in time, but now has given up on that happening. . . .


The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes told full-time employees on Wednesday that they won’t be getting paid after the end of this week. . . . The Super League’s Toronto Wolfpack has laid off its Canadian staff, putting 12 full-time employees out of work until play resumes. . . .


The B.C. Lions are scheduled to hold training camp in Kamloops from May 13 through June 3. I’m thinking that is about seven weeks away. I’m also thinking that isn’t going to happen. . . . So it may not be long before the CFL announces Plan B. . . .


If you feel like clicking on that DONATE button over there on the right and making a contribution, please go ahead. . . .


The below tweet shows the price of gas in Walsh, Alta., just east of Medicine Hat, on Tuesday:


The Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, who is at sportscurmudgeon.com, courtesy of Mark Twain: “How lucky Adam was. He knew when he said a good thing, nobody had said it before.” . . .


Clown


With the French Open already having been rescheduled, it now seems that Wimbledon could get the same treatment. It is scheduled for June 29 through July 12 but the All England Lawn Tennis Club now is saying the event could be postponed or, yes, even cancelled. . . . The French Open, originally scheduled for May 24 through June 7 at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, now is to be held from Sept. 20 through Oct. 4. It is to start one week after the conclusion of the U.S. Open. . . .


Terry Jones of Postmedia reports that Edmonton is likely to lose the Volleyball Super Nationals that were scheduled for May 13-19, and also the Triathlon World Series Grand Final and World Championships, Aug. 17-23. . . . While the triathlon event is expected to be moved to 2021, the next Volleyball Super Nationals isn’t scheduled until 2022. . . .



Beans

WHL’s off-ice season begins today . . . Bedard gets exceptional status . . . Cranbrook Bucks have their GM/coach

Turnsignals


The WHL will hold its inaugural two-round U.S. prospects draft today (Wednesday), along with its annual bantam draft lottery. . . . The lottery, which won’t be streamed live, is to be held at 11 a.m. (MT) and will originate from the WHL office in Calgary. The U.S. prospects draft will be held online, starting at 2 p.m. MT. . . .

Meanwhile, the WHL announced that it has cancelled its annual awards show and changed the date of its bantam draft. . . . The awards show was to have been held in Red Deer on May 6. . . . The bantam draft that was scheduled for Red Deer on May 7 now will be held online on April 22. . . .



In loading up for a run at the 2020 Memorial Cup, no one went to the lengths as did the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats and Chicoutimi Sagueneens. The Wildcats, under general manager Ritchie Thibeau, traded for three star players, giving up 13 draft picks and a prospect. Chicoutimi GM Yanick Jean bettered that by adding five players for 18 picks, seven of them first-rounders, and two players. . . . And, of course, there won’t be any playoffs in the QMJHL, nor will there be a Memorial Cup. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reviews the situation involving the two big buyers right here. . . .


Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported Tuesday morning that “the NHL is temporarily cutting the pay of league office employees by 25 per cent.” . . . The cuts will come into play on April 1. . . . Kaplan wrote, “According to sources, the NHL is hoping that the temporary pay cut among league office employees will prevent layoffs during this uncertain time.” . . . The NHL had 189 games remaining in its regular season when it halted play on March 12. . . .

——

The owners of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers had told salaried employees that they would be hit with pay cuts of 20 per cent and would be moving to four-day work weeks. . . . However, on Tuesday, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, reversed course. . . . “Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation,” Josh Harris, HBSE president, said in a statement. “As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries. . . . To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting this wrong.” . . .

——

Groupe CH, which owns the Montreal Canadiens and the AHL’s Laval Rocket, has announced layoffs that will affect 60 per cent of the employees in the organization. The layoffs will begin on Monday. . . . From a report by The Canadian Press: “Groupe CH says it has established a $6-millon assistance fund to help employees. The organization says the fund will help enhance employment insurance benefits for eight weeks, ensuring that employees will receive 80 per cent of their base salary for that period. The fund also will provide loans to employees in difficult financial situations.” . . .



Janet Brown of Vancouver radio station CKNW tweeted Tuesday morning that “White Spot restaurants has laid off about 3,000 employees in last week . . . owner Ron Toigo says restaurant industry was already hurting . . . he uses the words ‘bleak and staggering’ describing impact of COVID-19.” . . . Toigo also is the majority owner of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . .



Former Boston Bruins star Johnny Bucyk was to have had a hip replaced this week, but — guess what! — yes, the surgery was postponed. Dave Stubbs of nhl.com caught up with Bucyk, who is 84, and wrote this story right here. . . . You will enjoy this one. I guarantee it. . . .


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” . . .


The headline on the IIHF website reads: Ireland Coaches Italy. . . . Seriously. . . . Greg Ireland has signed on as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . Ireland, 54, takes over from Clayton Beddoes, who resigned earlier this year. . . . Ireland has been the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL since January. . . . Prior to that, he spent three seasons as the head coach of Switzerland’s HC Lugano. . . .



BC Hockey announced Tuesday that F Connor Bedard has been granted exceptional status, so the 15-year-old will be eligible to play full-time in the WHL next season. Bedard, from North Vancouver, is the first player granted such status for WHL play. . . . Bedard, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, had 84 points, including 43 goals, in 36 games for West Vancouver Academy’s midget prep team this season. . . . The WHL bantam draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, WHL teams were allowed to use a 15-year-old in only five games before his club team had its season end. However, the Winnipeg Ice got F Matthew Savoie into 22 games, turning that ‘rule’ into something of a fallacy. Savoie, who applied for exceptional status by Hockey Canada but didn’t get it, finished with seven points, all of them assists. . . .

Two other players — F Riley Heidt and F Brayden Yager — also applied for exceptional status in the hopes of playing in the WHL next season as 15-year-olds. They both are from Dundurn, Sask., and both played with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Heidt had 17 goals and 20 assists in 44 games; Yager had 18 goals and 24 assists in 44 games. . . . There was no mention of either in the announcement involving Bedard. . . .

Bedard is the seventh player to have been granted exceptional status, after Sean Day, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Shane Wright, all of whom played in the OHL, and Joe Veleno, who played in the QMJHL. . . .


Floss


Ryan Donald is the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who are scheduled to begin play in the BCHL in 2020-21. The Bucks have signed Donald to a four-year contract. . . . Donald, who is from Edmonton, has been an assistant coach at Yale U for five seasons. Earlier, he played at Yale for four seasons. . . . “Ryan is an incredible hire for our club,” Bucks owner and president Nathan Lieuwen said in a news release, “and is absolutely the right person to build this franchise. “Not only does he have quality experience coaching at high levels, but he also has great connections throughout the NCAA.”


Ryan Oulahen has been named head coach of the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. He signed a three-year contract. . . . Oulahen had been the interim head coach since Dec. 10, when he replaced Stan Butler. . . . A former captain of the Battalion when the franchise was based in Brampton, Oulahen spent two seasons (2016-18) as head coach of the Flint Firebirds. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with the Battalion for five seasons. . . . Butler had been the Battalion’s head coach since 1998-99. . . .


CHL, Hockey Canada shut things down on day we will never forget . . .

NewYorkPost


The WHL, like so many other sporting organizations, put its season on hold Thursday afternoon as the world works to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Each of the WHL’s 22 teams plays 68 regular-season games. As of now, there are a total of 54 games remaining on the schedule, which was to have ended on Sunday, March 22. The first round of the playoffs, which would have started with 16 teams,  was to have started on Friday, March 27.

Now . . . who knows?

“Our goal,” a statement from the WHL read, “is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so.”

Teams that were on the road were instructed to return to their home cities. All players were to return to their billets and remain there while awaiting word on what comes next.

The CHL, which encompasses the WHL, OHL and QMJHL, announced the shutting down of all three leagues on Thursday afternoon. That announcement came after the NHL announced that it was suspending play.

Later in the day, former NHL executive Brian Burke, now an analyst with Sportsnet, said that he would be surprised if the NHL was able to hand out the Stanley Cup this season.

Because of the way COVID-19 has spread and continues to do so, I am inclined to agree with Burke.

With the WHL, of course, it’s all about the Ed Chynoweth Cup, which goes to the playoff champion, and the Memorial Cup, which is to be played in Kelowna, from May 22 through May 31.

It is far too early to know what will happen next. Will those 54 regular-season games be played? What about the playoffs? Is there a Plan B . . . Plan C . . . Plan D?

What about the Memorial Cup, which is only a bit more than two months away? If you’re wondering what could happen between now and then, think about where we were two months ago — in mid-January — compared to now.

Regardless, Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, says it’s full speed ahead in Kelowna.

“We are still marching straight ahead,” Hamilton told Global News in Kelowna. “That’s been the marching orders from the CHL. That is still 10 weeks out. It’s a long ways away.”

If you are looking for a time element to all of this, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner whose league suspended operation on Wednesday night, told Sports Illustrated on Thursday:

“This hiatus will most likely be at least 30 days. . . . Is there a protocol, with or without fans, in which we could resume play? It’s too early to tell.”

Anyway . . . could it be that the Victoria Royals’ 3-2 victory over the host Rockets on Wednesday night will have been the WHL’s last game of the 2019-20 season? If, indeed, that is the case, F Brayden Tracey of the Royals will have scored the season’s final goal, breaking a 2-2 tie at 11:22 of the third period.

And if you’re wondering, the Portland Winterhawks are atop the WHL’s overall standings at this point, which, I suppose, gives their fans bragging rights, at least for now.


Early Thursday evening, Hockey Canada announced that its board of directors had made the decision “to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including our national championships, until further notice, effective Friday, March 13.”

I’m not sure if “cancel . . . until further notice” means postponed or cancelled. Either way, Canada’s arenas will be mostly dark for the foreseeable future.

BC Hockey issued a statement indicating that it supports “the leadership shown by Hockey Canada to suspend all hockey operations . . . and will be following the direction to suspend all BC Hockey games and events until further notice.”

In a later tweet, Hockey Alberta pointed out that Hockey Canada’s edict includes league games, playoffs, practices, camps and provincial, regional and national championships . . . at the minor, female, junior, senior and sledge levels.”

Hockey Canada’s decision brought an end to the U Cup, Canada’s university men’s and women’s championship, both of which had started in Halifax and Charlottetown, respectively, and were to have ended on Sunday.


Ken King, a longtime president and governor of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 68. He was the vice-chair and chief executive officer of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns the NHL’s Flames, CFL’s Stampeders, NLL’s Roughnecks and the Hitmen. . . . There is more right here.

NBA season suspended . . . NHL pondering immediate future . . . Maybe all leagues should shut down?


The NBA has indefinitely suspended its season after a player with the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus.

With a number of NBA teams sharing facilities with NHL teams, it is hard to see how the NHL season will be allowed to continue. In fact, the NHL said Wednesday night that it “is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options.”

The NHL said it expects “to have a further update (Thursday).”

With the NBA having suspended its season and if the NHL follows suit, you have to wonder what the WHL will do.

Maybe it’s time for all sports leagues to suspend operations indefinitely, just to cut down on large gatherings, and see where all of this goes.

We obviously have to do something, because this has to change before we are forced to go through many more days like Wednesday when nothing got touched more than refresh buttons.

And every time you hit refresh so much had changed.


If the WHL season continues, it could end up with an entire first-round playoff series being played without any fans in attendance.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced Wednesday morning that public gatherings of more than 250 people are being banned through the end of March as part of the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds then let it be known that they would complete the home portions of their regular-season schedules by playing in empty arenas.

The Silvertips are second in the Western Conference, one point behind the Portland Winterhawks. Each team has five games remaining.

The Thunderbirds are destined to finish in eighth spot and will meet the first-place finisher in the opening round of the playoffs.

So if Everett was to get into that top spot and if the season continues . . .

If, if, if . . .

——

The first WHL game to be played in an arena without fans in attendance is scheduled for Saturday in Kent, Wash., with the host Seattle Thunderbirds meeting the Vancouver Giants.

The Thunderbirds also are scheduled to play at home against the Spokane Chiefs on March 17. That game, too, will be played without fans.

There had been speculation on Tuesday night in Spokane, as the Chiefs were beating the Kamloops Blazers, 3-0, that the March 17 game would be moved to Wenatchee, Wash.

Seattle’s final home game of the regular season, against the Winterhawks, is scheduled for March 21. Chances are that game, too, will be played without fans but a firm determination has yet to be announced.

The Silvertips’ final home game, against the Victoria Royals on March 20, will be closed to the general public.

The Silvertips will finish first or second in the Western Conference, so will open the playoffs with home games on March 27 and 28. Should that happen, and with no end to this crisis in sight, it would seem that those games would be closed to the public.

——

Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to visit the Giants at the Langley Events Centre on Friday. The Giants said they “will continue to welcome fans” to the LEC, but also said they are “continually monitoring the COVID-19 situation.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been 46 positive tests in B.C., almost all of them on the Lower Mainland. B.C. announced seven new cases on Wednesday, including the first on Vancouver Island.

In Alberta, the total of positives tests reached 19 on Wednesday — 11 in the Calgary Zone, seven in the Edmonton Zone and one in the Central Zone. All cases to date have been travel-related.


The IIHF men’s world U-18 championship is scheduled to be held in Plymouth, Mich., from April 16-26. But it’s hard to see that tournament being held after U.S. President Trump announced Wednesday night that some travel from Europe is being prohibited.


If the NHL season continues . . .

The San Jose Sharks will play their next three homes games without any fans in the SAP Center. The Montreal Canadiens are to play there on March 19, with the Boston Bruins there two days later and the Arizona Coyotes on March 29. . . . The Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, also plays in the SAP Center and will play home games on March 17 and 22 without fans in attendance. . . .

In Ohio, the Columbus Blue Jackets will play their final five home games without fans. The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to play in Columbus tonight (Thursday).


Daniele Rugani, a defender with the Italian soccer team Juventus, has tested positive for coronavirus, the team announced Wednesday. Rugani, 25, now is in isolation and all who have been in contact with him are being checked. . . . Play in the Italian Serie A had been suspended with the country all but shut down. . . .

The world figure skating championships that were to have been held in Montreal, from March 18 through March 22, were cancelled on Wednesday. . . .

The NCAA announced that March Madness, the annual men’s basketball championship tournament, will be played, but that fans won’t be allowed to attend any of the games. The NCAA said that only players, essential staff and family members will be allowed in the buildings. . . . NCAA president Mark Emmert also said that the Final Four is likely to be moved from the 71,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to a smaller venue. It is scheduled for April 4 and April 6. . . .

The Big Ten, Big 12, American, ACC and Pac-12 announced that their men’s basketball tournaments, all of which start on Thursday, will be closed to fans. . . .

The U of Michigan has cancelled its annual spring football game that was scheduled for April 18 in Ann Arbor. The school also cancelled all events scheduled for any of its athletic facilities through April 21. . . . Ohio State cancelled its spring football game that was to have been played on April 11, while announcing that attendance at any intercollegiate events played host to by the school will be limited. . . .

USA Hockey has cancelled its national championships — high school, youth, girls, adult and sled — and its Disabled Hockey Festival. . . . The national tournaments were to being March 26 in various locations; the Festival was to be held in Pittsburgh (March 26-29, April 2-5).


If you are from Regina, this is big, big, big . . .


The BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors have signed Simon Ferguson to a two-year contract as head coach. Ferguson took over as interim head coach on Jan. 1 after the firing of Brandon West. . . . With Ferguson in control, the Warriors went 9-10-2 and earned a playoff berth. . . . They lost a first-round series to the Penticton Vees. . . .

The junior B Creston Valley Thunder Cats have signed Nick Redding, their general manager and head coach, to a three-year contract. Redding, who is from Spokane, just completed his second season with Creston. . . . Before joining the Thunder Cats, he had been the hockey operations co-ordinator with the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Washington governor expected to ban large gatherings . . . Would impact two WHL teams . . . Junior B series opener postponed


Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., at which, according to the Everett Herald, he is expected to “announce a ban on events and social gatherings attended by more than 250 people” as the area continues to battle COVID-19.

It is believed that an initial ban would impact Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Everett, the home of the WHL’s Silvertips, is the county seat and the largest city in EverettSnohomish County. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds play out of SeattleKent, Wash., which is located in King County.

It will also affect the MSL’s Seattle Sounders, Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves and XFL’s Seattle Dragons.

The Thunderbirds have three home games remaining — on Saturday (Vancouver), Tuesday (Spokane) and March 21 (Portland).

The Silvertips have one home game remaining, on March 20 against the Victoria Royals.

Later Tuesday, the Silvertips announced the cancellation of the Silvertips Radio Show “until further notice.” It was broadcast live from Sporty’s Beef & Brew, featuring play-by-play voice Mike Benton and appearances by players. Last night’s show was available via the Internet.

On Tuesday, Inslee said the banning of large gatherings, including sporting events, is under consideration.

“I would not be shocked if we have some more news on that in the next few days,” he said. “If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming, not just what’s here today.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll in the state from COVID-19 had reached at least 23, with more than 190 confirmed cases. Inslee said he expects that number to grow rapidly.

On Monday evening, Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, had displayed a chart that features five levels of actions. Washington state already has moved through Level 2 and, Hayes said, “We are at the ready to institute the third level. Level 3 includes “involuntary isolation of those sick” and “involuntary quarantine of those who have interacted with those sick.”

Hayes added: “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant . . . But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”

Level 4 involves ordering the “cancellation of major public and large private gatherings,” which would appear to be where at least three counties now find themselves.


With less than two weeks remaining in its regular season and the playoffs scheduled to open on March 27, the WHL has announced a handful of operational changes in response to COVID-19.

It has ordered the “elimination of handshakes between teammates, opponents and whlofficials,” while also impressing upon teams that players not share water bottles or towels.

The WHL also has asked all teams to “avoid direct contact with fans, including high-fives, handshakes, and autographing of items.”

The WHL’s statement didn’t make mention of whether it has looked at other options, such as playing games in empty arenas or even postponing/cancelling games.

While the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers, for two, have said they will abide by the WHL’s request, Saskatoon radio station CKOM reported that the Blades “aren’t putting limitations on fans.”

The station reported that “Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades, told 650 CKOM the team isn’t planning on following the recommendations, and autograph sessions will continue as scheduled.”



In Everett, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced that its men’s and women’s basketball championships are moving from Everett Community College to Clackamas CC in Oregon City, Ore., and Linn-Benton CC in Albany, Ore. . . . The tournaments were to have been played last weekend at Everett CC and, in fact, three women’s games were played on Thursday before the campus was shut down because of coronavirus concerns. A student from Everett CC later tested positive. The campus received a thorough cleaning and reopened on Monday.

——

Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, the start of a junior B playoff series between the Oceanside Generals and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has been postponed. The North Division final was to have started Tuesday night in Parksville, but BC Hockey said several Campbell River players are self-isolating with flu-like symptoms. . . . Gerry Bickerton, the Generals’ president, told Nanaimo NewsNOW that his team is healthy. “Hockey-wise it’s frustrating but public safety-wise this has to be done,” Bickerton said. “With what’s happening right now, BC Hockey went and did their questioning and they’ve made their decision.” . . . It is hoped that the series now will begin Saturday in Parksville. . . . Alex Rawnsley’s story is right here. . . . As of Tuesday night, there hadn’t yet been a positive test for coronavirus on Vancouver Island.


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported via Twitter on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Kings “have banned their scouts from plane travel because of the COVID-19 virus. If they can’t drive to the game, they’re not to go.” . . . Campbell followed that up with: “Buffalo Sabres scouts are still flying, but not to Europe. They’ve also told their scouts that if they feel uncomfortable about flying, they don’t have to fly.”


——

Some of Tuesday’s other developments . . .

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors played a home game in front of fans on Tuesday night, despite an aggressive recommendation from the City of San Francisco on Friday that all large, non-essential events be cancelled. . . . This isn’t sitting well with city officials. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the online news site Mission Local. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” . . . The Warriors have said that they don’t plan any changes before their next home game, either. That game is scheduled for Thursday. . . .

The NBA will hold a conference call involving team owners on Wednesday afternoon during which they will discuss possible moves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each franchise was required to have “several contingency plans in place” by Tuesday, including “an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist, the identifying of a specific facility to test for coronavirus and a plan to limit the number of team and arena staff members that would interact with players.” . . . On Wednesday, the owners are expected to discuss the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. . . .

The Austrian EBEL (Erste Bank Ice Hockey League) cancelled the remainder of its season, with the German DEL quick to follow suit. . . . The EBEL features teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. A statement from the league stated that “no championship title will be awarded in the 2019-20 season.” . . . The DEL statement read, in part: “The DEL is forced to end the current season. . . . The reason for this is the banning by federal states of events such as DEL games with more than 1,000 spectators. . . . Due to the premature end of the season, there is no German champion this year. As the main round winner, the EHC Red Bull Munich, together with the Adler Mannheim, the Straubing Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin, represent the DEL in the Champions Hockey League (CHL 2020-21).” . . .

Igor Eronko, a Sport-Express hockey writer and KHL-TV commentator, tweeted that “Moscow plans to cancel all the sports events with more than 5,000 spectators. . . . It will definitely affect the KHL playoffs.” . . .

For an in-depth look at postponements, cancellations and more from the hockey world, check out this right here from Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog. There is a whole lot of information here. . . .

The Ivy League shut down all spring football practices, effective Tuesday morning and running through at least April 5. . . .

The Ivy League also cancelled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were to have been played this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The Princeton women and Yale men were awarded the league’s NCAA tournament bids. . . . The Ivy League also made the decision to limit attendance at all sporting events through the end of its spring season. . . .

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cancelled the rest of its state boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey and boys swimming tournaments. . . . The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association has also cancelled its playoffs. . . .

Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has recommended all indoor games be played without spectators. That would include the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, whose next home game is scheduled for March 24. . . . DeWine tweeted that “for indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents and others essential to the game.” . . . The Blue Jackets later issued a statement, saying that they have been in contact with the NHL and “it has been determined that our scheduled games, including Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticket fans that wish to attend.” . . . The Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland starting on Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy. Thus, they won’t be open to the public. . . .

The Big West Conference will play its conference tournaments without fans in the buildings. The men are to play this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim; the women will play at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. . . .

The Zac Brown Band has postponed a spring tour. . . . BMI, a music rights management company, has postponed its Latin Awards that had been scheduled for Los Angeles on March 31. A new date hasn’t yet been chosen. . . . The Coaches Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was to have run April 10-12 and April 17-19, has been postponed to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. It annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. . . . Stagecoach, a country music festival, also has been postponed. It, too, is held at the Empire Polo Club. Originally scheduled for April 24-26, it now is to be held Oct. 23-25.



I have spent the past couple of days cleaning out a filing cabinet. Of course, it never gets done as quickly as it should because, well, there are all of those old stories to read.

Like the one about when the WHL officially stopped referring to 20-year-old players as overage. The decision was made at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on April 2, 1985, when it also was decided to allow teams to dress three such players, up from two.

“I’m pleased about the move to three 20-year-olds,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “We also decided to eliminate the word ‘overage’. From now on, those players will be referred to as 20-year-olds.”

At the same meeting, the WHL made 12-year-olds ineligible to be placed on teams’ protected lists. Prior to that decision, a 12-year-old took up two spots on a team’s list.

The WHL, at the time, continued to allow the listing of 13- and 14-year-old players without any restrictions.