Sign stealing in the WHL? Yes, it happened . . . Not watching The Twilight Zone here . . .

It wasn’t quite the Houston Astros, but it turns out that the Kamloops Blazers were involved in the sign-stealing racket in the spring of 1998.

They were in the early stages of a first-round playoff series with the Prince George Kamloops1Cougars when the accusations started flying.

It seems the Cougars were of the opinion that Garnet Stevenson, the Blazers’ backup goaltender, was spying on Prince George head coach Ed Dempsey and his line calls.

“As Dempsey called out the next line combination,” I wrote in the Regina Leader-Post on March 28, 1998, “the Cougars felt that Stevenson was taking it all in and getting that information to Kamloops head coach Marc Habscheid.

“So, for Game 4, the Cougars had enforcer Richard Peacock stand at the end of the bench PrinceGeorgenearest the Blazers’ bench. His job was to screen out Stevenson’s view of Dempsey.”

According to Jim Swanson, then the sports editor of the Prince George Citizen: “Peacock, who also helped by opening the gate for teammates, stood next to Stevenson, talking to him and reminding the goaltender the Cougars knew about the Kamloops spy job. Early in Game 4, Habscheid kept looking for Stevenson for a hint of what the Cougars were planning but he had nothing to report.”

The Blazers won Games 3 and 4 — 5-3 and 2-1 — to take a 3-1 series lead. Prince George then won two straight, 4-1 at home and 4-3 in OT on the road, to force a Game 7, which it won, 2-1, at home.

As for the sign-stealing accusations, Stevenson told me via email this week: “The story was 100 per cent true.”


We were watching an episode of Hogan’s Heroes (so sue me) on Tuesday night when a promo came on for The Twilight Zone. Hey, you know the music . . .

Dorothy: We’re not watching that!

Me: Why not?

Dorothy: Because we’re living in The Twilight Zone right now.

Me: Hard to argue with that kind of reasoning.


Quarantine


As had been anticipated, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has cancelled Wimbledon for 2020. Not postponed. Cancelled. . . . The tournament first was held in 1877. Prior to this, only the First and Second World Wars had kept it off the tennis calendar. . . . It was to have been held from June 29 through July 12. . . . The 2021 tournament is scheduled for June 28 through July 11. . . . At the same time, the ATP and WTA announced that all of their events have been cancelled through July 13. So that takes care of the grass-court season. . . . With Wimbledon gone, the first major the season is scheduled to be the U.S. Open, which is to begin on Aug. 31. For now. . . .

The Queen’s Plate, which was to have run at Woodbine on June 27, is expected to be postponed indefinitely. . . . The race dates to 1860 and is the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. . . .Earlier, Woodbine Entertainment postponed the start of its thoroughbred season, as well as the harness racing season at Mohawk Park. . . .

According to Golf Digest, the R&A is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it has cancelled the 2020 Open Championship (aka the British Open). The tournament was to begin on July 16 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club. . . . The Golf Digest story is right here. . . .


The NFL, meanwhile, is steaming towards the start of its 2020 season early in September. A schedule is to be released around May 9. . . . On a Tuesday conference call, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said: “All of our discussions, all of our focus, has been on a normal, traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums and going through a full 16-game regular season and a full set of playoffs. That’s our focus.” . . . But as The Sports Curmudgeon points out, it was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who knows a thing or two about this pandemic, who noted: “We don’t set the timetable; the virus sets the timetable.” . . .



The Ottawa Senators have announced that four more people from their organization have tested positive for the coronavirus. They now have had seven people test positive, all of them having been part of the group that travelled to California and returned to Ottawa on a chartered flight on March 12. All told, five players and one staff member have tested positive, along with broadcaster Gord Wilson. According to the Senators, the five players and staff member all have recovered. . . . Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has more right here.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and often the eye is glass.”



Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet posted his weekly 31 Thoughts on Wednesday and, as usual, there is some neat stuff here. Especially good is the latter part of the piece where he pays tribute to a number of young players who weren’t able to complete their seasons, including WHLers Jadon Joseph and the Warm twins, Beck and Will. . . . It’s all right here.


The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have added Craig Carter to their staff as assistant general manager and director of player personnel. . . . Carter, who is from Langley, B.C., was the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ director of hockey operations last season after spending two seasons as a scout with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.


Savoie signs with Ice, says he doesn’t know where he’ll play in 2019-20. . . . Royals get Warm from Oil Kings


MacBeth

F T.J. Foster (Edmonton, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Guildford Flames (England, UK Elite). Last season, he had 11 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. He actually started the season on a try-out contract with Sport Vaasa (Finland, Liiga), going pointless in one game. . . .

F Braden Christoffer (Regina, 2012-15) has signed a one-year contract with Stjernen Fredrikstad (Norway, GET-Ligaen). Last season, in 47 games with the Bakersfield Condors (AHL), he had seven goals and three assists. . . .

F Evan Bloodoff (Kelowna, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Coventry Blaze (England, UK Elite). Last season, with the Fife Flyers (Scotland, UK Elite), he had 27 goals and 17 assists in 55 games. He led the Flyers in goals.


ThisThat

F Matt Savoie, the first-overall selection in the 2019 WHL bantam draft, has turned his back on the U of Denver Pioneers and signed with the Winnipeg Ice.

The Ice announced Thursday that Savoie had signed a WHL contract. The move comes wpgiceafter he made a verbal commitment to Denver in March.

“Obviously, it’s a tough decision,” Savoie told Winnipeg radio station CJOB. “Both are great options. It was a long process. . . . In the end I felt Winnpeg gave me the best opportunity to develop as a player and a person.”

Savoie and family members visited Winnipeg and the Ice’s training facility and the Rink Hockey Academy after the May 2 bantam draft.

Savoie, 15, and his older brother, Carter, also spent last weekend in a spring camp that was put on by the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints.

The Ice also holds the WHL rights to Carter, 17, who was the AJHL’s rookie of the year with the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Carter also has made a commitment to Denver. The Ice acquired Carter’s rights from the Regina Pats on April 3. On Thursday, Carter said in a tweet that he intends to return to the Crusaders and that he also intends to honour his commitment to Denver.

“We’re pretty close,” Matt told CJOB of his relationship with Carter, “but we know we both have different paths in our hockey careers.”

The Ice held the first two selections in the 2019 bantam draft in Red Deer on May 2. It used the picks to take Savoie and F Conor Geekie, both of whom now have signed WHL deals.

From St. Albert, Alta., Savoie had 31 goals and 40 assists in 31 regular-season games with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team. In five playoff games, he put up three goals and nine assists, helping his club win the league title. He later was honoured as the league’s MVP.

That came one year after he was the bantam prep league’s MVP for finishing 2017-18 with 28 goals and 69 assists in 30 regular-season games for the X-Treme.

The Savoie family applied to Hockey Canada for exceptional status late in 2018. While Hockey Canada has yet to make an official announcement, numerous reports this spring indicated that the application had been denied.

Had Savoie been granted exceptional status, he would have been eligible to be on the Ice’s roster in 2019-20. As things now rest, he is eligible to play five games before his club team has it’s season end, after which he could join the Ice on a full-time basis. He also is eligible to play games with the Ice in 2019-20 on an emergency basis, and who knows what the maximum is under that rule?

When it was suggest to him by CJOB that he could play five games with the Ice in 2019-20, Savoie responded: “That’s a question for the WHL.”

If Hockey Canada doesn’t grant him exceptional status, he could return to the X-Treme for a second season with the midget team. He also could play a number of junior A games with the Crusaders as an AP.

Asked by Winnipeg radio station CJOB where he will play in 2019-20, Savoie replied that it is “undetermined where we’re going or what we’re doing.”

In the same news release that revealed Savoie’s signing, the Ice announced that it has released 100 more seats at Wayne Fleming Arena, the rink on the U of Manitoba campus in which it will play at least its next two seasons. After renovations, that arena is expected to have a capacity of around 1,600. The Ice didn’t reveal whether Savoie will get a cut of tickets that were sold after his signing was announced.

——

WHL 2019 FIRST-ROUNDERS

UNSIGNED:

3. Prince George — D Keaton Dowhaniuk

4. Prince George — F Koehn Ziemmer

7. Kamloops — D Mats Lindgren

14. Swift Current — F Matthew Ward

20. Kamloops — F Connor Levis

21. Swift Current — D Tyson Jugnauth

——

SIGNED:

1. Winnipeg — F Matthew Savoie

2. Winnipeg — F Conor Geekie

5. Brandon — F Nate Danielson

6. Brandon — F Tyson Zimmer

8. Seattle — F Jordan Gustafson

9. Saskatoon — F Brandon Lisowsky

10. Seattle — D Kevin Korchinski

11. Moose Jaw — D Denton Mateychuk

12. Medicine Hat — F Oasiz Wiesblatt

13. Calgary — D Grayden Siepmann

15. Spokane — F Ben Thornton

16. Brandon — F Rylen Roersma

17. Regina — D Layton Feist

18. Edmonton — F Caleb Reimer

19. Victoria — D Jason Spizawka

22. Prince Albert — F Niall Crocker


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


The Victoria Royals have acquired D Will Warm, 20, from the Edmonton Oil Kings for a VictoriaRoyalsfifth-round selection in the 2021 WHL bantam draft. . . . From Whistler, B.C., Warm played three seasons with the Oil Kings. Last season, he had two assists in 33 games. He missed a lot of time with a knee injury. . . . In 153 regular-season games, he has 10 goals and 28 assists. . . . The Oil Kings selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 bantam draft. . . . Warm also was named the WHL’s humanitarian of the year for the 2018-19 season, winning the Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy. . . . Warm is one of eight 20-year-olds on Victoria’s roster, joining F D-Jay Jerome, Belarusian F Igor Martynov, F Tanner Sidaway, D Jameson Murray, D Scott Walford, D Jake Kustra and G Shane Farkas. . . . Farkas was acquired from the Portland Winterhawks on May 2. . . .

Edmonton’s roster now includes four 20-year-olds — F Zach Russell, D Parker Gavlas, D Conner McDonald and G Dylan Myskiw. F Trey Fix-Wolansky also is 20, but has signed an NHL contract and is expected to play in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization.


The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed D Ryan Nolan to a WHL contract. Nolan, from Calgary, was a third-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . Last season, he had eight goals and 16 assists in 31 games with the bantam AAA Calgary Northstar Sabres.


Darrell Hay is back in the coaching game, having signed on with the Boise State Broncos. Hay, 39, is the son of Don Hay, who has more victories than any head coach in WHL history. . . . Darrell, a defenceman, played four seasons (1996-2000) with the Tri-City Americans. . . . During his pro career, he spent three seasons (2004-05, 2006-08) in Boise playing for the Idaho Steelheads. He is employed by the City of Boise, working in the Parks and Recreation Department, with a focus on the Ice Pilot youth hockey program. . . . Before relocating to Boise, Hay spent one season (2016-17) as an assistant with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. . . . With the Broncos, he will work alongside head coach Lloyd Ayers. . . . The Broncos play in the PAC 8, an American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II league.


Tweetoftheday