Thursday, October 23, 2014

Whoa! Check out that third sweater . . . Warriors talking mental health awareness . . . Raiders add veteran forward

F Martin Filo (Moose Jaw, 2007-09) signed a one-year contract with Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga). Filo had been released last week by Unia Oświęcim (Poland, Ekstraliga) without playing a game.

I don’t get too excited over the third sweaters that are trotted out on a regular basis by sporting teams in this day and age. The novelty has long since worn off.
But every once in a while one comes along that catches my eye and makes me say: Whoa!
The Prince Albert Raiders have come up with just such a sweater, one that they trot out on Nov. 7 against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, which is only fitting. Seattle is the only WHL city that also is home to a Major League Baseball team, and Conexus Baseball Night will definitely have a baseball theme.
Thus the baseball-themed sweaters.
The Raiders will wear these sweaters and they will be auctioned off live right after the game. Proceeds will go to the Raiders education fund.
A special guest in the person of former MLB pitcher Jack Morris will be on hand, too.
According to a Raiders news release: “The entire night will revolve around baseball! We will be playing some baseball themed music, having special promotions, hot dogs will be on sale in the concessions and we encourage fans to wear their baseball jerseys!”
Morris will be in Prince Albert as he is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the Kinsmen Sportsman Dinner on Nov. 8 in the Art Hauser Centre.
BTW, the Victoria Royals will get into the third sweater act tonight as they open a Friday-Saturday doubleheader against the visiting Vancouver Giants. Just a hunch, but I’m thinking black might figure in the Royals’ new-look colour scheme.
The Royals, who are opening a five-game homestand, are coming off a six-game road trip that produced four victories. Earlier this season, the Giants twice beat the Royals, 3-1 and 5-3, in Vancouver.

A tip of the hat to the Moose Jaw Warriors for the work involving mental health awareness that the organization is doing. Donna Boyer, the Moose Jaw branch director with the Canadian Mental Health Association, held a three-hour presentation for the Warriors on Tuesday, dealing at length with the safeTALK program. In attendance were players, billet families and the team’s staff. Katie Brickman of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has more right here.
What the Moose Jaw Warriors are doing is terribly important as we work hard to increase mental health awareness in all corners of our society. . . . “I think, first and foremost, we just wanted them to understand that they can talk,” Alan Millar, the Warriors’ general manager, told Brickman. “There are people within the organization and people outside the organization that if for any reason they are overwhelmed or not feeling right or anything that there are people to talk to. I think the education is about eliminating that stigma that you hide from it.” . . . While the OHL has partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association on a program called Talk Today, the WHL appears to be content to allow individual teams to address the situation. In Prince George, the Cougars are working with Dr. Saul Miller, a long-time performance consultant and mental coach. He is in daily contact with Cougars head coach Mark Holick and deals individually with players. If Holick feels a player is acting out of character, he is quick to inform Dr. Miller, who has a PhD in clinical psychology. He is available to players on a 24/7 basis and the emphasis is definitely not on game performance.
The Prince Albert Raiders have added veteran F Marcus Messier, 20, to their roster. Messier’s arrival gives the Raiders three 20-year-olds as he fills the spot that opened up when F Dakota Conroy left the team and was placed on the suspended list. . . . Messier, from Canmore, Alta., also has played with the Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs. He played two games with the Chiefs this season before getting caught up in the 20-year-old game and being released. In 229 regular-season games, he has 67 points, including 26 goals. Messier was a second-round selection by the Americans in the WHL’s 2009 bantam draft.
The Kootenay Ice is struggling to score goals; in fact, they are the second lowest-scoring team in the WHL. So they really are looking forward to the return of F Tim Bozon, something that is supposed to happen tonight against the visiting Calgary Hitmen. . . . Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman has more right here.
Daniel Nugent-Bowman, who covers the WHL and the Saskatoon Blades for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, takes a look right here at the fallout from the class-action lawsuit that was filed against the CHL on Oct. 17. “Combine the unexpected news with rumblings of a players’ union that re-emerged this summer,” he writes, “and there appears to be at least some appetite for systematic change.” However, as he points out, people need to be careful what they wish for.
The Regina Pats are averaging 3,642 fans through six home games. The franchise’s new owners would like to see more bums in the seats, but they aren’t about to push the panic button. "We have a long-term plan. It's early. We're still learning ourselves,” Anthony Marquart, the president of Queen City Sports and Entertainment Group, tells Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post right here. "(But) we're committed to doing our best to put the best product on the ice and improve the game-day experience. Over time I'm confident we'll have more people coming to the games."
NHLChico Resch, one of hockey’s good guys, will be honoured tonight by the New Jersey Devils. Resch, who was born in Moose Jaw, was a long-time member of the Devils’ broadcast crew before retiring after last season. There was a time back in the day when he had a stint as the head coach of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. . . . Rich Chere of has more right here.
Elliotte Friedman starts his weekly 30 Thoughts with a look at the value of young NHL defencemen. These days, it seems, a team can’t win a Stanley Cup without one. Friedman’s piece is right here.
In case you missed it, the Toronto Blue Jays have raised the price of most of their season-ticket packages. The announcement was made on Thursday. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star has that story right here. Two questions: 1. When will the price increases end, and I mean the cost of everything, from utilities to fruits and veggies to event tickets; and, 2. Rogers, which owns the Blue Jays, wouldn’t be using money from the Blue Jays to fund the 12-year NHL package, would it?

Two of the highest-scoring teams in the WHL meet up tonight in Kamloops as the Blazers (8-5-1) entertain the Brandon Wheat Kings (9-2-1). The Blazers have scored 51 goals in 14 games, including seven in their last outing, a 7-2 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants on Wednesday night. The Wheat Kings, who opened this road trip with a 7-4 victory over the Prince George Cougars on Wednesday, have scored 66 goals, including 25 in their last three games. . . . Kamloops F Cole Ully leads the WHL scoring race, with 22 points, including nine goals. Brandon F Rihards Bukarts has 20 points, seven of them goals, in 12 games. . . . Bruce Luebke, the radio voice of the Wheat Kings, tweeted yesterday that F John Quenneville, who has missed six games with an undisclosed injury, is back practising without any restrictions. . . . Join me on Twitter tonight if you want to follow along. . . .

An interesting tidbit from Neal’s Notes. Andy Neal, who works WHL games for Shaw-TV, was in Swift Current this week and chatted with Portland Winterhawks assistant coach Kyle Gustafson.
Neal writes that Gustafson “paid quite the compliment to (Brandon Wheat Kings D Kyle) Clague . . . saying he might be the best 16-year-old defenceman he’s ever seen. Remember, this comes from a coach who just had Derrick Pouliot to work with the last four years and was pretty impressive in his rookie year, too.”
Keep in mind, too, that Gustafson is into his 11th season on the Winterhawks’ coaching staff. . . .

Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald reports that Silvertips F Dawson Leedahl has “damage to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and likely will need surgery which will sideline him for four to six months.” Leedahl, 18, was injured Saturday as the Silvertips bet the host Spokane Chierfs, 3-2, in overtime. . . .

F Dillon Dube of the Kelowna Rockets won’t be taking part in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge next month in Sarnia, Ont. Warren Henderson of the Kelowna Capital News reports that Dube suffered an undisclosed injury on Saturday during a 5-2 loss to the host Tri-City Americans. According to Henderson, Dube will be out for up to six weeks. He missed the start of the season with another injury and has only played in two games. . . .

The Saskatoon Blades have won five of their last six games and they’ll entertain the Lethbridge Hurricanes tonight. Saskatoon’s power-play is 6-for-11 over its last four games, three of which have been victories. . . . Saskatoon D Ryan Coghlan injured a shoulder during a fight on Wednesday night and won’t play tonight. . . .

Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province reported via Twitter on Thursday that Giants F Jakob Stukel (hand) “got some skating in on the side at the end” of the team’s practice. Stukel “avoided pucks,” according to Ewen, who added: “Still seems ways away.” . . .

The Regina Pats got their roster down to 23 on Thursday by releasing F Rylee Zimmer, 17, from their roster. He will join the MJHL’s WayWayseecappo Wolverines. Zimmer, from Russell, Man., had one goal in four games this season. He was pointless in 44 games last season. He was a fifth-round selection by the Pats in the 2012 bantam draft. . . . The Pats’ roster now includes 14 forwards and six defencemen, along with three goaltenders.


Billy McGuigan is back with the Maritime Hockey League’s Summerside Western Capitals. McGuigan has signed on as their head coach, replacing Tom Schurman who was fired earlier in the week. McGuigan was the Capitals’ head coach for two seasons before spending last season as an assistant coach with the WHL’s Regina Pats.


Dickson Liong: Canucks represent country with win over Blues

Dickson Liong

A Canuck is more than someone who plays for the Vancouver Canucks.
At 10 o’clock every morning in most cities, children are in school studying, while other folks are busy in their work places.
Not in Ottawa on Wednesday. 
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian honour guard, was in front of the National War Memorial. He was on location to greet anyone who came by. But, on this day, he met a man with a rifle and was shot dead.
That gunman was later identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehab-Bibeau.
After killing Cirillo, Zehab-Bibeau made his way to Parliament Hill, where all three of the major political parties were holding their weekly caucus meetings. He managed to enter the building and began firing.
Officers returned fire, and Zehab-Bibeau was shot dead.
Immediately, a lot of the city was placed on lockdown. People were told to stay at home, employees stayed in their offices, and students were locked in schools. No one was doing what they had expected to be doing.
Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators were scheduled to play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs at 4 p.m.
“I can't speak for the players,” Dave Nonis, the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager said when asked how the team was handling the situation. “From what I saw, they handled (the situation) very well. We're very fortunate to be in a safe environment here. You think more about what's going on outside.
“You hear a lot, obviously from the sirens and what you follow on television, that it was a serious and  significant event. I don't think the players could probably shield themselves from that. It's something that was in every players' room and, unfortunately, that's the world we live in today.”
The NHL only had one decision to make, though, and that was  to postpone the game after such tragic events.
“It catches you off-guard,” Nonis told reporters. “But unfortunately these events have happened in the past, (just) not necessarily with hockey. The league was quick to react to it. We were aware very early on that this was a possibility that the game may be cancelled. The players prepared to play, they went through the morning rituals that they normally would. But, unfortunately, the situation put out that it wasn't possible.”
It goes to show that there are more things in life than hockey.
“Well, obviously, we respect the league's decision to cancel the game,” Nonis said. “(These) events far outweigh a hockey game. We look forward to coming back and playing the game when they see fit to schedule it. Our thoughts go out to all the people affected and the police force that you could hear working so hard all day. Again, a hockey game is definitely secondary (to this).”
The shootings didn't just affect Ottawa and the everyone in the city. They took a toll on the entire country.
“On behalf of our organization, we'd like to (send) all of our thoughts and prayers (to) everyone affected by the events this morning in Ottawa,” Edmonton Oilers' head coach Dallas Eakins said. “It's a sobering day.”
While the game in Ottawa was postponed, the Oilers were scheduled to play host to the Washington Capitals.
Barry Trotz, the Capitals' head coach, was born in Winnipeg, so has Canada in his blood.
“That's just where society is right now,” Trotz said. “I mean, we probably face a little more of that type of thing in the United States, but we also have 10 times the population. It is becoming a little more common. I think the NHL is doing the right thing by keeping people safe and keeping people off the streets until they can find if there's more people involved. I think it's a real strong move by not only the city of Ottawa, but also by the NHL to recognize that, (to) keep people in their houses and safe.”
A moment of silence was held prior to Edmonton facing off with Washington.
The Oilers were able to honour the military with a 3-2 victory over the Capitals.
As well, the United States showed great support during Canada's difficult times. So did the Pittsburgh Penguins.
When two American teams play, as a rule only the Star Spangled Banner is played prior to a game. When a Canadian team visits an American team or vice versa, both anthems are played.
But the Penguins decided Wednesday would be an exception to the rule. They played host to one of their arch-rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, and O Canada, the Canadian national anthem, was included as a way to pay tribute.
One day after the horrific goings-on,  the Vancouver Canucks had to find a way to do the same. After all, a Canuck is a Canadian.
Vancouver not only represented the city, but also the country.
The visiting Canucks defeated the host St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Thursday night, snapping their two-game losing streak.
“I think that was a total team effort,” Vancouver forward Nick Bonino, who finished with a goal and an assist and was a plus-2, said. “That's something we've had all season. We just weren't getting the wins the last two games. So it's good to get (this) one, especially for (goaltender Ryan Miller, who played his former team for the first time). He was a wall back there. He made some huge saves and we are happy to win it for him.”
Miller made 31 saves.
But this victory was more than just two points. It was more than just the end of a two-game losing skid. It was more than a victory for Miller, who played against his former team.
This was a victory for all the soldiers who put on the uniforms for the nation.
They are the true Canucks.
NOTES: The game between Toronto and Ottawa has been re-scheduled for Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. PST. . . . Canucks F Daniel Sedin's point streak ended at six games in St. Louis. . . . Vancouver D Alex Edler played in his 500th career game. . . . The Canucks are right back at it on Friday when they visit the Colorado Avalanche.

(Dickson Liong is Taking Note’s Vancouver correspondent. Follow him on Twitter at @DLLiong.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another former WHLer checks in . . . Wheat Kings have an import overload . . . Another shutout for Whistle

F Antonín Honejsek (Moose Jaw, 2009-11) has signed a one-year contract with Kometa Brno (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Honejsek started the season with the Espoo Blues (Finland, Liiga), scoring once in two games. He was loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa (Finland, Mestis), and had one assist in one game. He was released on Oct. 3.


Following yesterday’s post that included some observations from a former WHL player, another emailed arrived from another former WHLer. Hopefully, this one also will provide some insight into life in the WHL.
Some excerpts, with team names changed to provide requested anonymity:
“Not to sound crazy, but looking at your post about how CHL teams pay their players, it seems there is a discrepancy in the payouts to players from each team. In (City A), I personally got $60 every two weeks, or $120 a month as a 16-year-old. So it outrages me when I hear people complain when they got more than me.
“In all, It was said that I made around $400-$500 as a player (according to tax records) every two weeks, but most of that went to my billets. It was included in my pay.
“There was a major difference between the teams in (City A) and (City B) when I played for them. The team in (City B) paid for gas and the team in (City A) did not. When I was 19 in (City B), I would make $185 or so plus gas, but in (City A) there would be no gas bonus.
“The league needs to hold each team accountable for fees to be paid to players, and not find loopholes or tax breaks in order to pay players less. Do you know how hard it is to fill up a car with gas to drive around your teammates when you make $60 every two weeks as a 16-year-old? Especially if your parents can't give you a MasterCard?
“The university promise has done wonders for me, but I wish there was more when I played hockey for my team, the team I bled and battled for.
“For a kid in the CHL, as a 16-year-old, $500 a month would be a lot, but logical. They would be able to not worry about those things when having to spend 40 to 50-plus hours a week at the rink or doing other things for the team. Players are not looking for millions, but fairness.
“Yes, the CHL does produce the most players and graduates more than any other league to high professional ranks, but this cannot be indicative or the main argument on why not to pay players more money. Make them feel like professionals and also like human beings.
“The best part about the ‘student-athlete’ part is that I graduated from high school at 17 years of age. For the two years after I graduated and still played in the WHL was I still considered a ‘student-athlete?’ Many players who I played with didn’t graduate high school, so how can they be all ‘student-athletes?’ This is all shady to me.
“Sorry for venting, but SOMETHING has to be done. Not for me, but for future, struggling players who do not have wealthy parents. Also, for what is most important, fairness.”
It also says something about the situation that this former WHL player twice asked for anonymity.
First, there was this: “I do not wish to be in the spotlight or even mentioned, as I have kids who will be participating in hockey in the upcoming years and I do not wish to impact their hockey careers.”
Later, this: “Please: Do not mention my name as mentioned before. My anonymity is important for my future and my children's future. Thank you.”
It would seem that intimidation, perceived or otherwise, still is a force in the game of hockey, on and off the ice. Of course, it has long been said that perception is reality in a lot of minds.

Czech F Richard Nejezchleb, 20, has been returned to the Brandon Wheat Kings. A fifth-round pick by the New York Rangers in the 2014 NHL draft, he had been with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. . . . Nejezchleb suffered an undisclosed injury while with the Rangers team at the Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and hasn’t played since. However, he now is healthy. . . . Once he rejoins the Wheat Kings, they will have 14 days to get down to the maximum of two import players. Their roster also includes Latvian F Rihards Bukarts, who turns 19 on Dec. 31, and freshman D Ivan Provorov, a 17-year-old Russian. . . . Brandon will be faced with a tough choice as Bukarts went into Wednesday night with 17 points, five of them goals, in 11 games. Last season, he put up 54 points, including 28 goals, in 65 games. Provorov is an early candidate as the Eastern Conference’s rookie of the year, with 12 points, five of them goals, in 11 games. . . . In 101 regular-season games with Brandon, Nejezchleb has 81 points, including 43 goals. Last season, in 66 games, he put up 57 points, 32 of them goals. . . . Should Brandon keep Nejezchleb, he would become its third 20-year-old, joining F Peter Quenneville, who was named captain earlier in the week, and D Eric Roy, who turns 20 on Friday. . . . As well, Nejezchleb has a two-game suspension hanging over his head, something left over from last season’s playoffs. . . . If you are wondering who might have room for a 20-year-old import: Only the Prince Albert Raiders have fewer than three 20s, and that’s after they suspended F Dakota Conroy who left them earlier this week. Each of the other 21 teams has two imports on its roster.


In Swift Current, F Colby Cave scored with 12.6 seconds left in the third period to give the Broncos a 5-4 victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Cave has two goals this season. . . . F Paul Bittner scored twice for Portland, pulling it to within a goal, at 4-3, at 17:50 of the third and getting them even at 19:17. He's got five goals this season. . . . D Max Lajoie had two goals and an assist for the Broncos. . . . F Chase De Leo scored his eighth goal of the season for Portland, now 2-2 on an East Division swing. . . . The Winterhawks, with goaltenders Brendan Burke and Adin Hill injured, started Bolton Pouliot and had Chantz Vinck of the midget AAA Swift Current Legionnaires on the bench as the backup. Michael Bullion, who has been with the NAHL's Wenatchee, Wash., Wild, is expected to join the Winterhawks today. . . . Vinck, 17, is from Weyburn, Sask., the hometown of former Portland D Derrick Pouliot. . . .

In Saskatoon, F Alex Forsberg's two goals helped the Blades to a 5-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Forsberg's second goal, at 17:22 of the first period, broke a 2-2 tie. He has five goals over his last three games. . . . Blades G Nik Amundrud stopped 31 shots to earn his first WHL victory. . . . Ice F Jaedon Descheneau picked up his 200th regular-season point in his 203rd game when he scored his club's second goal, his sixth this season. . . . The Ice, which has lost three straight, is hoping that F Tim Bozon, who is out with an undisclosed injury, can make his season's debut on Friday against the visiting Calgary Hitmen. Calgary expects to have F Jake Virtanen play his first game of the season after off-season shoulder surgery. . . . In the NHL last night, F Sam Reinhart, who is eligible to be returned to Kootenay, played 9:51 for the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-1 loss to the host Anaheim Ducks. In faceoffs, he was 1-for-8. . . . Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman has a game story right here. Ice head coach Ryan McGill said: “Our performance was embarrassing.” . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has a gamer right here. He reports that Blades D Ryan Coghlan suffered a shoulder injury in a second-period fight and will be re-evaluated today.

In Kamloops, the Blazers had 16 players get at least one point as they whipped the Vancouver Giants, 7-2. . . . The Blazers (8-5-1) moved into second place in the Western Conference. . . . The game turned early in the second period when the Blazers took a 3-0 lead by scoring twice in 12 seconds, F Jake Kryski getting his fifth at 3:09 and F Matt Needham his seventh at 3:21. . . . F Cole Ully had a goal, his ninth, and an assist for Kamloops. He's atop the WHL scoring race with 22 points, two more than Kelowna F Nick Merkley and Medicine Hat F Cole Sanford. . . . The Blazers put it away with four third-period goals. . . . Vancouver's PP was 0-for-7. . . . Kamloops G Cole Kehler stopped 28 shots in a solid outing. . . . The Giants were 8-0-0 against Kamloops last season and had won the only meeting this season, beating the visitors 3-0 on Friday. . . . These teams won't meet again until Dec. 30 in Vancouver. . . . Prior to the game, a moment of silence was held in memory and in honour of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. . . .

In Prince George, the Brandon Wheat Kings opened a seven-game road swing with a 7-4 victory over the Cougars. . . . Freshman F Nolan Patrick and sophomore F Rihards Bukarts each had two goals and an assist for the Wheat Kings. . . . Bukarts has at least one assist in eight straight games. . . . Bukarts has seven goals; Patrick has four. . . . Brandon D Ivan Provorov scored his sixth goal. . . . The Cougars got to within 5-4 at 12:07 of the third, when F Chase Witala scored his seventh goal, but the Wheat Kings, who were 4-for-8 on the PP, put it away with two late ones, from Patrick on a PP and Bukarts into an empty net. . . . The Wheat Kings are in Kamloops on Friday. . . . Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun has a game story right here.

In Kelowna, G Jackson Whistle stopped 22 shots as the Rockets beat the Tri-City Americans, 4-0. . . . Whistle has two shutouts in 11 appearances this season and five in his career. . . . The Rockets had taken their 10-0-0 record into Kennewick, Wash., on Saturday night and lost 5-2 to the Americans. . . . F Tyrell Goulbourne scored twice for Kelowna. He's got four goals this season. . . .

In Everett, F Kailer Yamamoto broke a 4-4 tie with 12.1 seconds left as the Spokane Chiefs beat the Silvertips, 5-4. . . . Yamamoto, 16, is a native of Spokane. . . . Everett (6-1-3) is the last of the WHL's 22 teams to lose in regulation time. . . . That was Yamamoto's first WHL goal. . . . F Nikita Scherbak had forged a 4-4 tie with his fifth goal at 11:06 of the third. . . . The Chiefs are 5-0-2 inside the U.S. Division.

The Victoria Royals have acquired G Jayden Sittler, 18, from the Kootenay Ice for a sixth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . Sittler, who is from Red Deer, was with the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons, going 2-2-0/3.04/.903. His acquisition leaves the Royals with three goaltenders, the other two being veteran Coleman Vollrath, 19, and Evan Smith, 17. . . . General manager Cam Hope told Marlon Martens, the radio voice of the Royals, that Smith was injured in practice on Tuesday. “That sped up our need to solidify the goaltending position with a player who can come in and play for us right now,” Hope said.

F Skylar McKenzie of the Portland Winterhawks was handed a charging major and game misconduct in the final minute of their 3-1 victory over the Pats in Regina on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the WHL said it had “reviewed the charging major and GM . . . There will not be any further discipline.” . . .
In case you missed it, here’s Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill, in conversation with Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman, after a 3-2 loss to the Raiders in Prince Albert on Tuesday: ““When you have a good game plan, you’ve got to execute. “Unfortunately, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him wear a bathing suit.” . . .
Don’t forget that WHL teams will have players leaving next week to compete at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge that runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 8 in the Sarnia, Ont., area. . . .
Another KHL head coach has bit the dust. Traktor Chelyabinsk fired Karri Kivi on Wednesday, replacing him with Andrei Nikolishin. Traktor was 7-13 under Kivi, leaving it ninth and out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Kivi is the fourth KHL head coach to be fired this month.

Stars' home rink not a friendly place for Canucks

Dickson Liong

Six doesn't seem to be a lucky number for the Vancouver Canucks, at least not when they play at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Last season, Vancouver had a two-game road trip on which it visited the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars on March 4 and 6, respectively.
The Canucks were shut out by the Coyotes, 1-0, and things didn't get any better in Dallas.
In fact, they got worse, as the Canucks trailed the Stars 4-0 after 20 minutes in a game they would lose, 6-1. That brought back memories of a Jan. 15 game in which Vancouver visited the Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks gave up two first-period goals in that one, en route to a 9-1 loss.
“It was a tough one,” Canucks' defenceman Kevin Bieksa said after that March 6 game in Dallas. “Our effort and our execution wasn't good enough. We were flat out outplayed in the first 30 minutes of the game and the second-best team on the ice. It's very disappointing right now. This road trip is very disappointing, and if this isn't rock bottom, I don't know what is.”
“With what was at stake . . . was this even worse than the 9-1 game in Anaheim?” a reporter asked. 
“I don't know what's worse,” Bieksa replied. “It was a humiliating game to be a part of, just to be outplayed. I don't care what the shots were, but in the first 30 minutes of the game when the game was on the line, we were just flat out outplayed by a team that executed better than us. Here we are again.”
At the time, the Canucks were still battling for a playoff spot. They came into that game with a 28-26-10 record, but had been 1-8-1 in their previous 10 games.
Vancouver needed a victory if it wanted a chance of playing in the post-season. Vancouver went on to finish 36-35-11 for 83 points, good for only No. 12 in the Western Conference.
But, really, that is history.
With the 2014-15 season underway, the Canucks got off to a 3-0-0 start, and looked to be heading in more of a positive direction.
Let's not forget, though, that those three victories were against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, two teams that remain in the rebuilding stage, and are considered to be two of the NHL’s weaker teams.
When Vancouver played host to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, it was the beginning of a stretch in which the Canucks will face teams that should be more competitive. The Canucks lost 4-2 as Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored twice and added an assist.
Vancouver didn't seem to have any answer for him.
The talent and skill on teams that the Canucks were going to face next wasn't going to do down, either. Vancouver was scheduled to to head out on a three-game road trip beginning in Dallas.
With the Stars led by forwards Jason Spezza, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the Canucks knew they needed all four lines to produce if they were to obtain a victory.
So, Canucks' head coach Willie Desjardins decided to move forward Linden Vey from the third-line centre spot to the fourth line. Desjardins replaced Vey with forward Brad Richardson. As well, Desjardins moved Shawn Matthias, who had been the fourth-line centre, to left wing on the third line.
“I don't think we've had quite what we want out of (the fourth line),” Desjardins said. “But I think it's a lot of different things, it's not necessarily the players. I think it's a mixture. I think it's the ice time, lots of different things.
“At the same time, during the season, they've gone against the high-end line, too. I haven't just played them against the other teams' fourth lines.  They've done a good job defensively, maybe we just haven't got enough offence.”
Despite the changes, the Canucks re-lived the horrors when visiting the Stars, as they fell 6-3.
“I thought they put lots of pressure on us,” a clearly unhappy Desjardins said after the game. “They've got good speed on their attack, and they went to the net hard. The goals may have looked fortunate, but they got goals and put pressure on our net.”
Vancouver was able to put 46 shots on Stars' goaltender Kari Lehtonen. But, even at that, Desjardins didn't sound all too impressed.
“I don't know,” Desjardins said. “I think when you are down, you always gamble more. You know, when you're gambling more sometimes you have more shots out of it. I think we had to gamble a little bit more, and as a result, we got quite a few shots.”
However, Vancouver's fourth line did appear on the scoresheet, as Vey and left-winger Derek Dorsett assisted on right-winger Jannik Hansen's first goal of the season at 6:45 of the third period.
“We got a couple bounces here and there,” Hansen said. “This could have been a different game. But again, push comes to shove, we can't put ourselves in a hole like that.”
NOTES: RW Radim Vrbata, C Henrik Sedin and LW Daniel Sedin have combined for seven  goals and 14 assists in four games. Vrbata finished with a goal, while the Sedins each had an assist. . . . Canucks G Ryan Miller made eight saves on 13 shots before getting pulled at 1:17 of the second period. G Eddie Lack stopped 14 shots in relief. . . . It was Desjardins’ first time back in Dallas since he was hired by Vancouver. He had been the head coach of Dallas’s AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. . . . Vancouver will visit the St. Louis Blues on Thursday as part of their three-game road trip.

(Dickson Liong is Taking Note’s Vancouver correspondent. Follow him on Twitter at @DLLiong.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An ex-player's point of view . . . Raiders point finger at BCHL's Vipers . . . Skinner stands tall in hometown

F Vitali Karamnov (Everett, 2007-08) was reassigned by Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia, KHL) to Yermak Angarsk (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). He was pointless in two games during his recall with Novosibirsk. In seven games with Angarsk, he has two assists. . . .
D Renat Mamashev (Moose Jaw, 2000-01) has signed a one-year contract with Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia, KHL). Mamashev was in training camp with New Jersey (NHL), but was never offered a contract. Last season, with Traktor Chelyabinsk (Russia, KHL), he was pointless in four games; he had one assist in two games with Chelmet Chelyabinsk (Russia, Vysshaya Liga); and he had 12 points, five of them goals, in 32 games with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. . . .
F Lukáš Vantuch (Calgary, Lethbridge, 2005-07) has been released by Landshut (Germany, DEL2). He was under contract through Nov. 4. He had three assists in six games. Last season, with Landshut, he had 49 points, including 17 goals, in 53 games.


When all is said and done, the class-action lawsuit that was filed against the CHL on Friday may well come down to the legality of the drafts that are held by the CHL's three leagues -- the OHL, QMJHL and WHL -- and the legality of their standard player contracts.
For now, though, people are talking about the money. The lawsuit claims that CHL players are underpaid in that they don't earn the minimum wage, whatever that might be in each jurisdiction. The CHL, meanwhile, claims that its players are student-athletes and that there is far more to their pay than money.
On Tuesday, I received an email from a former WHL player who has taken advantage of his education package. Here are a few thoughts from this player, who I found to be mature beyond his years when he was in the WHL:
"I don't see why the CHL can't pay the players a bit more. When I was 16, I got $160 a month, so $40 a week. C'mon. Really? I would like to see a breakdown of something like $200 a month for gas (or make it dependent on which city you play in, Seattle driving vs. Moose Jaw driving is obviously way different).
"Players don't get a per diem on the road so give them like $200 a month for food/snacks on the long bus trips, and then, say, $200 a month for entertainment (movies and other stuff).
"I'd start 16-year-olds at $600 a month and then go up $100 per age so 20-year-olds get $1,000 a month.
"As has been documented, junior life isn't always that great if you aren't a top NHL prospect. You miss out on a lot of family/life events, deal with crappy coaches, stress . . . all that stuff. I feel there should be more compensation to put up with that or at least enough to break even and not have to constantly go to parents for money . . . especially when the owners make lots of money.
"I know some teams lose money for sure, so they would have to do a revenue-sharing model of some sort like the NHL, which would piss off the successful owners.
"I was fortunate. Once my gas money was up, my parents gave me a MasterCard and I'd fill up the tank with their money. They'd let me use it for some meals and whatnot once my monthly stipend was gone.
"I'm sure if increased wages come up then the CHL will want to scrap the education packages (which truly are amazing and helpful), but then the CHL vs. NCAA tilts towards the NCAA possibly?
"It's a tough subject to figure out IMO. The players need more money to live. They don't need thousands of dollars a month, just give them enough so they can enjoy life as teenagers and not always have to awkwardly ask people for money and whatnot.
"I don't know where this will go, but for anyone to deny that $160 a month is enough to live on and enjoy your time is delusional."

F Colton McCarthy, 18, left Prince Albert last week and the Raiders are claiming that there was some tampering involved. Head coach Cory Clouston is saying that the BCHL's Vernon Vipers were involved in McCarthy's decision. "If that happens in our league, it's tampering," Clouston said on radio station CKBI's Faceoff. . . . Mark Ferner, the Vipers' GM and head coach, told Jeff D'Andrea of that he had talked with Raiders GM Bruno Campese. . . . D'Andrea's story is right here.


In Regina, the Portland Winterhawks scored two PP goals and another shorthanded as they beat the Pats, 3-1. . . . The Winterhawks were 2-4 on the PP. . . . F Skyler McKenzie gave the visitors a 2-0 lead with his first goal, shorthanded, at 12:30 of the first period. . . . McKenzie ended up with a charging major at 19:49 of the third period. . . . The Winterhawks are 2-1-0 on their East Division swing. . . . The Winterhawks, who play the Broncos tonight in Swift Current, may be in a bit of a quandary with their goaltending. Starter Brendan Burke left in the third period last night after appearing to tweak something while make a save. Bolton Pouliot, who came over from Kamloops last week, came off the bench to finish up. Aden Hill, Portland's other goaltender, showed up on the injured list Tuesday; he's out week-to-week with an undisclosed injury. . . . Burke finished with 24 saves on 25 shots and was selected as second star. Pouliot, who came on at 3:42 of the third period, stopped 10 shots. . . .

In Prince Albert, the Raiders scored the game's last three goals and beat the Kootenay Ice, 3-2. . . . F Jayden Hart got the winner at 13:43 of the third period. . . . The Ice led 2-0 on F River Beattie's first goal at 8:10 of the first period. . . . Raiders G Nick McBride stopped 28 shots. . . . The Raiders have won two straight after losing five in a row. . . . The Ice remains without F Tim Bozon, who is sidelined with an undisclosed injury, but did get F Vince Loschiavo back after a four-game absence with an undisclosed injury. . . . With F Colton McCarthy and F Dakota Conroy having left the team, Raiders head coach Cory Clouston had to do some line juggling. Left with 11 forwards, he also had to move a defenceman up front. . . . Jeff D’Andrea of has the game story right here . . .

In Edmonton, G Stuart Skinner stopped 47 shots through OT and added three more in the shootout as the Lethbridge Hurricanes got past the Oil Kings, 2-1. . . . Skinner, who is from Edmonton, won't turn 16 until Nov. 1. He was the 17th overall selection in the 2013 bantam draft. . . . Edmonton had won four in a row. . . . The Hurricanes snapped a six-game losing skid. . . . F Tyler Wong of Lethbridge broke a scoreless tie at 1:50 of the third. . . . Edmonton F Andrew Koep tied it with his sixth goal of the season at 10:53. . . . Lethbridge F Jamal Watson scored in the shootout to win it.

Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald reports that the Silvertips are without F Dawson Leedahl (knee). He has had an MRI and the team is awaiting the results. According to Patterson, Leedahl will be out either four to six weeks or four to six months. He’s a big part of the Silvertips’ shutdown line. . . . The Medicine Hat Tigers came out winners on Friday at the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Awards gala. The Tigers were presented with the the 2014 Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce Southeast Alberta Shines Award, an award that used to be known as the Tourism Award of Distinction. The award, according to a news release, “recognizes a business, organization or group that has demonstrated outstanding achievement in putting Medicine Hat and/or Southeast Alberta 'on the map' as a great place to live, work and/or visit.” Dave Andjelic, the Tigers’ senior director, marketing and public relations, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

Monday, October 20, 2014

CHL facing class-action suit . . . Rebels, 'Tips cut a deal

F Hampus Gustafsson (Regina, Brandon, 2009-11) signed a one-year contract with Grenoble (France, Ligue Magnus) after a successful tryout. This season, he has three goals and an assist in two games with Grenoble. He started the season with Pantern Malmö (Sweden, Division 1) and was pointless in three games.


Student-athletes or employees or independent contractors . . . or something else altogether?
Just what are major junior hockey players?
That is at the crux of a class-action lawsuit that was filed Friday in Toronto.
The statement of claim is looking for $180 million from the Canadian Hockey League and its 60 teams. The lawsuit claims that the CHL pays its players less than the minimum wage in various jurisdictions and that these players should also be eligible for vacation and overtime pay.
Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star reported Monday that “an unprecedented class action lawsuit striking at the economic foundations of junior hockey in Canada alleges the Canadian Hockey League and its teams ‘conspired’ to force young players into signing contracts that breach minimum wage laws.”
Cribb adds that the lawsuit “seeks $180 million in outstanding wages, vacation, holiday and overtime pay and employer payroll contributions for thousands of young players given as little as $35 a week for practices, games, training and travelling that could add up to more than full-time hours.”
Cribb’s story is right here.
Later Monday, David Branch, Gilles Courteau and Ron Robison, the three men who head up the CHL’s three leagues -- the OHL, QMJHL and WHL, respectively -- issued a joint news release.
It reads, in part:
“In terms of the class action that was filed in Toronto late last week, the CHL, our member leagues and teams will vigorously defend ourselves against this action which will not only have a negative effect on hockey in Canada but through all sports in which amateur student athletes are involved.”
The news release also mentioned various areas of what the CHL refers to as “the player experience,” including the education program, “extensive health and safety, anti-doping and mentoring programs,” along with “a comprehensive mental health program in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association,” and “out-of-pocket expense coverage, equipment, billeting and travel costs.”
(Earlier this month, the OHL announced a partnership with the CMHA on a program named Talk Today. To this point there is no such program involving the WHL in partnership with the CMHA.)
For the last few years, the CHL and its member leagues and teams have gone to great lengths to claim that their players are student-athletes, and you can bet that will be at the crux of their defence, should it come to that.
However, we’re a long, long way from that point.
Ted Charney, the Toronto lawyer who filed the lawsuit, told Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press:
“Right now, it’s a proposed class-action. You need one representative plaintiff, which we have, and then you need to get it approved by a court. A judge has to decide whether or not to certify it as a class-action and the next step is to circulate a notice to the class members and they have 90 days to opt out, or they’re in.”
This, then, is Step 1. The speed at which the Canadian legal system works dictates that this action could take years to reach a conclusion, assuming that it proceeds that far.
The chances of it getting that far are, of course, awfully slim. The last thing the CHL wants to do is have its teams’ books opened for public perusal.
Still, it is going to be interesting watching this play itself out.
There was one humorous bit to the news release issued by Messrs. Branch, Courteau and Robison.
The last paragraph of the news release reads:
“In addition, despite all mentions to the contrary, recent communications and social media posts by Glenn Gumbley of the CHLPA lead us to believe that the Gumbleys are still actively involved on the fringes of junior hockey in Canada and with this action. The CHL will once again issue warnings to our players and their parents cautioning them about the Gumbleys.”
The Gumbleys, it seems, are bothering the CHL the way the mosquito in the cartoon raises havoc in the nudist colony. While the CHL tries to let on that the Gumbleys aren’t a bother, its arm are swatting furiously in an attempt to drive them away.
As is always the case in these situations, the CHL has instructed its teams not to comment on the filing of the lawsuit.
Brandon Archibald, a native of Port Huron, Mich., who played four-plus seasons in the OHL, has written an essay providing his perspective on what it’s like playing major junior hockey. He also addresses why he chose the OHL over the NCAA route. That piece is right here.

Bruce Gordon played three seasons in the WHL (Medicine Hat, Saskatoon, 1979-82). Eventually, he spent 28 years in law enforcement, most of that with the Saskatoon Police Service. He retired two years ago. Now, at the age of 51, Gordon is a student in the U of Saskatchewan’s college of law. . . . Jason Warick of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has more right here.

John Chartrand, a former OHL and QMJHL goaltender, is suing the OHL’s Barrie Colts for $12 million, claiming that he was wrongly cleared to play shortly after being knock unconscious in a car accident. Rick Westhead of TSN reports on the lawsuit, that actually was filed on Dec. 12, 2012, right here.
Jeremy Roenick says he experienced 13 concussions during his playing career. Now the former NHLer admits to having memory loss, some slurred speech and, at times, difficulty finding the right word. . . . Aaron Taube of has more right here.

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired F Tyler Sandhu, 18, from the Everett Silvertips in exchange for fourth-round selections in the 2015 and 2016 bantam drafts. . . . Sandhu was a second-round selection by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2011 bantam draft. Everett acquired him as part of the deal in which D Seth Jones went to the Winterhawks. . . . Sandhu, from Richmond, B.C., had 33 points, including 19 goals, in 62 games as a freshman (2012-13) with Everett and added 30 points, 13 of them goals, in 49 games last season. . . . This season, he has one goal in nine games. . . . This will be the first of what no doubt will be a number of moves by Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, general manager and head coach, aimed at strengthening his roster with the ultimate goal being the 2016 Memorial Cup, which will be held in Red Deer.
Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald wrote: “There was a discrepancy on why the trade took place. Everett general manager Garry Davidson said Sandhu was dissatisfied with his role on the team and requested a trade, while Sandhu said he didn’t request a trade and that it came as a surprise.”
Patterson’s story is right here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Raiders suspend veteran forward . . . Warriors, Broncos: Rivalry heating up

The Prince Albert Raiders have suspended F Dakota Conroy, 20, after he left the team and returned to his home in Edmonton. . . . He has a goal and an assist in 10 games, but that goal came on Sept. 20. . . . In 214 regular-season games, Conroy has 137 points, including 63 goals. He also has played with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Victoria Royals. The Wheat Kings selected him in the third round of the 2009 bantam draft. . . . Without Conroy, the Raiders are left with F Jayden Hart and D Sawyer Lange as their 1994-born players.
There isn’t anything in sports like a good rivalry, and it would seem that Moose Jaw F Jaimen Yakubowski is doing his bit to fire up the rivalry between the Warriors and the Swift Current Broncos.
Yakubowski broke a 3-3 tie with 4.1 seconds left in the third period on Saturday night.
“He then staked his claim as public enemy No. 1 in Swift Current by skating to centre ice,” reported Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald, “stopping on the Broncos' logo and hushing the 2,205 fans at the Credit Union i-plex before his teammates mobbed him.”
Swift Current F Carter Rigby, who was acquired last week from the Kelowna Rockets, played against Yakubowski when the latter was with the Seattle Thunderbirds.
"I played against him in the other conference, in the west, and he's one guy that I don't care for — at all," Rigby told Gourlie. "To see him score that (winning goal), get two tonight and then do that (celebration) doesn't sit well with me. There will be a time when we can get him back and I'm sure we will."
These two don’t play again until Jan. 16 in Swift Current.
Gourlie’s complete story is right here.
NHLA note from Jim Matheson’s Hockey World in the Edmonton Journal:
“The Detroit Red Wings were gob-smacked by the play of their tryout defenceman Joe Hicketts, who wasn’t drafted this past June, in part because he missed a chunk of playing time with the Victoria Royals courtesy a bad shoulder and also because he stands just five-foot-eight and 185 pounds. They quickly signed him, loving it that he’d mix it up with way bigger guys in the corners, after he was just a good in their main camp as he was in the prospects tournament at Traverse City. They think he might be another Brian Rafalski.”
The complete Hockey World is right here.
KHLVeteran coach Dave King is back in the KHL, having returned to Yaroslavl Lokomotiv to replace Sean Simpson, who was fired eight games into the season. King had been working with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes when the call came from the KHL team as September turned into October. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson has more right here.


D Travis Sanheim had two goals and an assist as the host Calgary Hitmen dumped the Regina Pats 5-1 in the day’s lone game. . . . Sanheim has six goals in 10 games this season. Last season, he finished with five goals in 67 games. . . . Sanheim also was hit in the face by an errant puck during the game, so will be spending some time with a dentist to get a tooth repaired. . . . The Hitmen broke open a scoreless game with three second-period goals. . . . Calgary’s first two goals came via the PP, which had been on an 0-14 skid. . . . Calgary F Pavel Karnaukhov, a 17-year-old freshman from Minsk, Belarus, scored his sixth goal. . . . F Morgan Klimchuk scored his second goal in as many games for the Pats. . . . The Hitmen next play Friday when they visit the Kootenay Ice. Calgary hopes to have F Jake Virtanen, who had off-season shoulder surgery, in the lineup for the first time this season.

The Brandon Wheat Kings have scored 18 goals in their last two games; the Lethbridge Hurricanes have scored 19 goals in 10 games this season. . . . The Medicine Hat Tigers are 9-1-1 and atop the Central Divison, thanks, at least in part, to their penalty killing. They have surrendered three goals on 40 opportunities and, at 92.5 per cent, are the only team in the league with a success rate above 90. As well, they have scored three shorthanded goals. . . . The Everett Silvertips, the only team in the league without a regulation-time loss, have only been shorthanded 26 times in nine games, but they’ve given up six PP goals. Their penalty killers are ranked 16th, at 76.9. . . . I was going to add a few more stats-related items here, but the WHL website crapped out on me. Imagine that!


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