Thursday, September 18, 2014

Broncos put up some big numbers . . . Arling era draws to close

The Swift Current Broncos’ board of directors has revealed that the franchise showed a profit of $197,244 for 2013-14.
The announcement was made Thursday night at the team’s annual general meeting.
“It’s been a long road from where we started,” said board chairman Liam Choo Foo in a news release, noting that the starting point four years ago was a $200,000 deficit.
The Broncos play in the smallest market in the 60-team Canadian Hockey League.
“We’ve seen continual growth and we’re optimistic about where we’re going,” he continued, “but by no means are we done working towards where we need to get to”.
Later, Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Broncos, tweeted: “The bad news is that attendance was down (59) a game, but good walk-ups paying higher prices and higher concession sales made up for that.”
The Broncos averaged 2,119 fans per game last season, good for 21st in a 22-team league. That was down from 2,178 in 2012-13.
The Broncos have two new directors -- Shane Lacasse, an accountant/partner at Stark and Marsh Chartered Accountants LLP and former Broncos F Jeff Kirwan (1993-98). He is the crop inputs manager at SWT.
The meeting also marked the end of an era as the board announced that “Joe Arling . . . will be stepping down after almost 20 years of dedicated service.”
Say it ain’t so, Joe!
While Arling has been with the Broncos, in one role or another, including chairman, for almost 20 years, he has been around the WHL for a whole lot longer than that.
He played a bit for the Saskatoon Blades in 1970-71, but made a much bigger mark as a coach, working on the staffs of the Billings Bighorns and the Blades.
And a whole lot of hockey people know him as the owner of the Swift Motel. Oh, the stories that have been told around that table!
The WHL, which most times follows the suit of the NHL when it comes to rule changes, has banned the spin-o-rama move from the shootout and from penalty shots during regulation or overtime.
A spin-o-rama is defined as a “360-degree turn.”
Thankfully, the WHL also has done away with the dry scrape prior to the onset of overtime that it had experimented with during the exhibition season. Instead, a dry scrape will be done through the middle of the ice only prior to a shootout, as in recent seasons.
There also have been a number of changes regarding faceoffs that ensue from pucks ending up out of play.
Now . . . faceoffs will be held in the attacking zone if a shot at the net deflects off a post or crossbar and out of play; if a shot at the goal breaks a pane of glass; if a shot at the net goes off the side of the net and out of play; if a shot at the net goes off the dasher or glass and out of play; if a shot at the net is deflected out of play by a teammate; and if a shot at the net becomes wedged in or on the exterior of that net.
Prior to this, everything hinged on the last player to have touched the puck. If an attacking player had the last touch, the faceoff was moved outside the zone; if a defending player or the goaltender had the last touch, the faceoff was inside the zone.
Among other rule changes announced by the WHL on Thursday:
1. Teams will change ends prior to the start of the five-minute OT period.
2. Should a game need a shootout, teams again will change ends before it begins.
3. Tripping will be called if a player dives and trips an attacking player, regardless of whether he makes contact with the puck.
The complete news release is right here.
I had been hoping the WHL would do more to crack down on checking from behind and checks to the head. But, unfortunately . . . crickets.
I fear that checking-from-behind minors have become just another penalty, like slashing, elbowing and cross-checking.
During the 66-game exhibition season, referees handed out 29 checking-from-behind minor penalties and one major penalty. That should be considered unacceptable, and it’s time something more was done to get this nasty play out of the game.
Maybe it’s time for the WHL to do what USA Hockey has done and endorse the Look-Up Line. Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times describes it as “an orange warning track painted on the ice designed to reduce paralyzing neck injuries that could result from collisions into the boards.” That line is 40 inches wide.
As Klein wrote, “Its goal is to warn players to use caution when giving and receiving checks in the danger area close to the boards.”
During those same WHL exhibition games, there were 13 minor penalties and one major penalty called for headshots. Again, that is just too many.
BTW, there were 30 fighting majors handed out during those 66 games. Of course, each fighting major carried with it an automatic game misconduct.
That works out to less than one fight (0.45) every two games.
Last season, according to the numbers at, there were 679 fights during the regular season, which works out to 0.86 per game.
Tack on the automatic game misconduct, then, and it would appear that fighting in the WHL is cut almost in half.
Maybe it’s time the WHL pooh-bahs gave that some thought.
The WHL also issued a reminder about its new playoff format, something that it first announced in June.
If you need a refresher, the news release that was issued yesterday is right here.

Over the past few days, The Oregonian has been counting down the 25 greatest players in the history of the Portland Winterhawks. Portland freelancer Scott Sepich unveils No. 1 right here, while a complete list is right here. . . . Lists like these are always subjective and they’re usually done in the hopes of prompting discussion. So just let me say that I would have had Perry Turnbull a lot higher than No. 13 and, yes, Troy Mick would have been higher than No. 22. If Dennis Holland is No. 2, and that’s fine, then Mick has to be in the top 10.
Most, if not all, WHL teams will be missing key players as the regular season opens tonight. Those players are in NHL training camps. Daniel Nugent-Bowman points out that it really isn’t fair to the WHL teams because the points on the line at this time of the season can be awfully important come March. . . . He also ponders what can be done about this situation. . . . His column is right here.
BTW, the Calgary Hitmen have nine players off their roster at NHL camps. It isn’t known if any of those players will be back as they begin the franchise’s 20th season on Saturday against the visiting Red Deer Rebels. But it’s safe to say that the Hitmen roster a month from now will look somewhat different than what it is right now.
Laurence Heinen has more right here from the Calgary Herald.
If you are a WHL fan, you know that there are numerous regular-season previews available in print and on the Internet. That includes the Eastern and Western Conference previews that have appeared on this blog.
But they all pale compared to the preview put together by Cody Nickolet over at the WHL From Above blog.
Give it a look right here.
Here’s an interesting note from James Shewaga, the sports editor of the Brandon Sun:
“The boys from Brandon give the Wheat Kings plenty of homegrown talent on this year’s roster. In fact, if they all stick this season, Brandonites could fill six of the 12 forward spots in the lineup on any given night, with Tyler Coulter, Brett Kitt, Tanner Kaspick, Duncan Campbell, Ty Lewis (currently injured) and Jesse Gabrielle, whose family moved to the Wheat City a year ago. The ‘Brandon’ Wheat Kings, indeed.”
While things certainly appear to be looking up in Swift Current, that’s not the case in Prince Albert where Raiders GM Bruno Campese said Wednesday that the team lost money in 2014, something that will be confirmed at the annual general meeting on Sept. 29.
Darryl Mills, the managing editor of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, addresses the Raiders’ situation right here, and he compares it when Winnipeg lost the Jets to Phoenix.

The Calgary Flames have returned D Eric Roy to the Brandon Wheat Kings. But he has a shoulder injury and could be out for two weeks. . . . The Saskatoon Blades were missing D Ayrton Nikkel and F Wyatt Sloboshan at practice on Thursday. Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports that both are ill and questionable for tonight’s opener in Prince Albert against the Raiders. . . .
With the teachers’ strike having been settled in B.C., and school scheduled to resume on Monday, the Vancouver Giants have announced “that in celebration . . . any school-aged child who is accompanied by an adult to Saturday’s season-opener against the Victoria Royals will get into the game for free.” Visit the Giants’ website for details. . . .
Bobby Henderson, the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen, has agreed to a five-year contract extension that takes him through 2018-19. Last season, his second with the Rivermen, they went 37-13-3-5, for the BCHL’s best regular-season record. . . . The Portland Winterhawks go into the regular season missing two defencemen -- Blake Heinrich has a brain injury, while Josh Hanson is nursing a broken knuckle.

WHL Western Conference preview . . .

The WHL’s 49th regular-season gets started tonight (Friday).
Here is a look at the Western Conference’s 10 teams, courtesy of reporters who cover the WHL (teams appear in order of last season‘s finish):

Last season: 57-11-4; first in B.C. Division, first in Western Conference; lost in third round of playoffs.
Head coach: Dan Lambert (first season, sixth with Kelowna).
Assistant coaches: Kris Mallette (first season), Travis Crickard
(goaltending coach, first season).
Key losses: Leading scorer F Myles Bell (42G, 77P), F Ryan Olsen
(30-34-64), No. 1 D Damon Severson and G Jordon Cooke (Kelowna’s MVP).
The 20-year-olds: D Cole Martin of Texas, who’s a lock as an over-ager, F Tyrell Goulbourne, F Carter Rigby and F Colton Heffley.
The imports: Swiss F Kris Schmidli, 18, returns for a second season. Kelowna’s second import is 6-foot-3 Czech rookie F Tomas Soustal, 17.
Key returnees: D Madison Bowey, the captain; Martin, one of seven returnees on defence; Goulbourne, with his physical presence; F Rourke Chartier, 18, and F Nick Merkley, 17. Chartier was sixth in team scoring (24-34-58) while Merkley, as a rookie, was fifth (25-33-58).
New faces: D Lucas Johansen, 16, the younger brother of NHLer Ryan Johansen; F Dillon Dube, 16, who joined Kelowna in the playoffs and appeared in one game; and F Tanner Wishnowski, who played last season with the Okanagan Rockets of the B.C. Major Midget League.
Watch for: Kelowna’s depth to wear down the opposition, much like last season. The Rockets don’t have any true game-breakers, but they should have plenty of 20- to 30-goal scorers.
Noteworthy: No fewer than 18 players are projected to return from last season’s roster. That team set franchise records for most victories and points in a season. . . . Kelowna had 10 players invited to NHL camps this fall.
Did you know: This will be the Rockets’ 20th season in Kelowna since
relocating from Tacoma, Wash., in the summer of 1995.
The prognosis: With a large cast of returning players, especially on the blue line, take Kelowna to win a third consecutive B.C. Division
— DOYLE POTENTEAU/Kelowna The Daily Courier
Last season: 54-13-5; first in U.S. Division, seeded second in Western Conference, lost in WHL final.
Head coach: Jamie Kompon (first season as coach; also is GM).
Assistant coaches: Kyle Gustafson (11th season), Keith McKittrick (first season)
Key losses: F Brendan Leipsic and F Taylor Leier to the AHL; D
Derrick Pouliot and D Mathew Dumba could play in the NHL; D Garrett Haar, F Adam Rossignol and G Corbin Boes graduated; F Adam de Champlain, 20, opted for the AJHL.
The 20-year-olds: Former Prince George D Josha Smith joins
holdover D Josh Hanson, who suffered a broken knuckle in the exhibition season. There is room, then, for one more.
The imports: Danish F Oliver Bjorkstrand returns after scoring 50
goals last season, along with Swedish D Anton Cederholm.
Key returnees: F Nicolas Petan has 233 points over the last two
seasons, and should play on a line with 2015 draft prospect Paul
Bittner and Bjorkstrand. 2014 NHL draftees F Chase De Leo, F Alex Schoenborn, F Keegan Iverson and F Dominic Turgeon also are back, along with D Keoni Texeira and D Layne Viveiros. G Brendan Burke will get another chance to be the clear No. 1 goaltender.
New faces: Minnesota-born D-men Nick Heid and Blake Heinrich have left the NCAA track to come to the WHL. Heinrich starts the season on the shelf (concussion). Forwards Alex Overhardt, Skyler McKenzie and Colton Veloso also could make an impact, along with backup G Adin Hill.
Watch for: Can the Winterhawks make another deep playoff run without an elite defenceman, or will they pull another rabbit out of the hat and land a first-round talent via trade?
Noteworthy: The Winterhawks are aiming to be the first team in WHL
history to play in five consecutive league finals.
Did you know: Portland could have as many as 13 U.S.-born players play for it this season.
The prognosis: Mike Johnston is gone, but the Winterhawks should be dominant offensively yet again. The key is whether or not a defensive group lacking in star power and goalie Burke can keep the puck out of their own net.
— SCOTT SEPICH/Portland-based freelancer
Last season: 48-20-4; third in Western Conference, lost in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Dave Lowry (third season).
Assistant coach: Enio Sacilotto (fifth season).
Key losses: G Patrik Polivka, 20, has turned pro in his native Czech Republic. D Brett Cote, 20, was traded to Red Deer. F Steven Hodges, 20, was dealt to Tri City. F Ben Walker, F Logan Nelson and D Jordan Fransoo graduated.
The 20-year-olds: F Austin Carroll, F Brandon Magee and D Travis Brown.
The imports: Swedish F Axel Blomqvist is signed by the Winnipeg Jets. Slovakian F Kristian Ferletak was selected in this year's import draft.
Key returnees: Magee led the team in scoring last season but will miss the first 12 games this season due to suspension. F Austin Carroll, hard to budge in front of the net, led the Royals in goals with 34. D Keegan Kanzig, who stands 6-foot-7, has signed with the Calgary Flames. D Joe Hicketts is undersized but highly mobile and hugely under-rated. Brown is another puck-mover. F Tyler Soy, 17, is an emerging scorer. G Coleman Vollrath is the incumbent starter.
Key Rookies: F Dante Hannoun, 16, and F Matthew Campese, 17, could bear watching. Matthew is the son of Prince Albert Raiders GM Bruno Campese.
Watch For: This isn't a squad with much glitter, but it has some true grit. The unsung bunch comprises F Logan Fisher, F Brandon Fushimi, F Taylor Crunk and D Ryan Gagnon.
Noteworthy: The real strength of this team is off the ice with head coach Dave Lowry and GM Cam Hope, the respective 2013-14 WHL coach and executive of the year. Their tight structure managed to squeeze the most out of this blue-collar group last season in setting franchise records for victories (48) and points (100).
Did you know: This is the ninth season in franchise history, the fourth as the Royals after the five as the Chilliwack Bruins.
The prognosis: After the greatest regular season in franchise history, followed by a franchise-first playoff series victory, the Royals will be looking for more this season. While not yet an elite team, the Royals at least look to have the kind of moxie it takes to be a top-four team in the Western Conference.
— CLEVE DHEENSAW/Victoria Times Colonist
Last season: 41-25-6; fourth in Western Conference, lost in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Steve Konowalchuk (fourth season).
Assistant coaches: Matt O’Dette (second season), Tyler Alos (second season),Ian Gordon (goaltending, second season).
Key losses: F Branden Troock signed with Dallas; F Alex Delnov
signed in KHL; F Roberts Lipsbergs signed in Europe; F Jaimen
Yakubowski traded to Moose Jaw; F Connor Honey to injury.
The 20-year-olds: Seattle has five on its roster – F Justin Hickman, G Taran Kozun, F Sam McKechnie, D Evan Wardley and D Adam Henry – so something has to give.
The imports: F Alexander True (Denmark) and F Florian Baltram
(Austria) were picked in the CHL’s 2014 import draft.
Key returnees: D Shea Theodore (22G, 57A) led the team and WHL
defencemen in scoring; he had been selected by Anaheim in the first round (26th) of the 2013 NHL draft. F Mathew Barzal (14G, 40A) is eligible for the 2015 NHL draft and ranked in the top 10 by most observers. F Ryan Gropp (18G, 24A) also is in his draft year and highly rated; he should play on Barzal’s wing. D Ethan Bear (6G, 13A), another highly rated draft prospect, should improve his offensive numbers.
New faces: The Thunderbirds are high on G Logan Flodell, 17. D Sahvan Khaira is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound 16-year-old; he is the younger brother of former Everett Silvertips F Jujhar Khaira. Speedy F Kaden Elder was taken in the first round of the 2013 bantam draft, while F Nolan Volcan, a second-round pick in 2013, also should make the team.
Watch for: Can Seattle get secondary scoring outside of the Barzal-Gropp line?
Noteworthy: The Thunderbirds have improved each season under Konowalchuk, going from out of playoffs to seventh seed in 2012-13 to fourth seed last season.
Did you know: Barzal has a chance to be the highest drafted
Thunderbirds player since D Thomas Hickey was selected fourth overall in 2007.
The prognosis: Seattle will have an experienced defence, but will be
young, albeit talented, up front. Still should compete for a top-four
seed in the Western Conference.
— ANDREW EIDE/710 ESPN Seattle
Last season: 39-23-10; fifth in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Kevin Constantine (second season).
Assistants: Mitch Love (fourth season); Brennan Sonne (first season); Shane Clifford (goaltending coach, second season).
Key losses: F Joshua Winquist, D Matt Pufahl and F Manraj Hayer graduated. F Jujhar Khaira is off to the professional ranks. That's four of the team's top five scorers.
The 20-year-olds: D Ben Betker is a lock, while F Kohl Bauml also appears safe. F Zane Jones and F Brayden Low likely will battle it out for the third spot.
The imports: Returning Swiss D Mirco Mueller is a question mark as he could make the NHL's San Jose Sharks as a 19-year-old. Russian F Ivan Nikolishin is the team's leading returning scorer.
Key returnees: G Austin Lotz begins his third season as the team's starter. D Kevin Davis and D Noah Juulsen are coming off impressive 16-year-old seasons, and along with Mueller and Betker give Everett a strong group on the blue line. The Tips will be looking for increased offensive production from Nikolishin, F Carson Stadnyk and whichever overage forwards stick.
New faces: D Carter Cochrane joins the team full-time following an impressive season in the BCHL. F Graham Millar arrived in an offseason trade with Saskatoon.
Watch for: Everett to be challenged to score goals now that Winquist, who was at the centre of everything the Tips did offensively, is gone.
Just notes: Lotz shed 23 pounds during the offseason to prepare himself for a heavy workload this season.
Did you know? For the second straight season Everett has a guarantee out to season-ticket holders. If the Tips don't finish at least fourth in the Western Conference, season-ticket holders get a $100 credit toward 2015-16.
The prognosis: Everett took a big leap forward last season, getting out of a rut of finishing eighth in the conference for three straight years. The foundation is there as the Tips are strong and experienced on defence and in goal. But will Everett be able to score goals? Without some offensive breakthroughs the Tips will be hard-pressed to finish higher than they did last season.
— NICK PATTERSON/Everett Herald
Last season: 40-26-; sixth in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Don Nachbaur (fifth season)
Assistant coach: Scott Burt (second season).
Key losses: F Mitch Holmberg (WHL scoring champion with 62 goals, 118 points), F Mike Aviani (38 goals, 81 points) and G Eric Williams (33-19-4) graduated. Captain D Reid Gow (56 assists) and D Jeremy McIntosh chose not to return. F Carter Proft signed in Germany. D Cole Wedman was traded to Moose Jaw. F Adam Hascic returned to Slovakia.
The 20-year-olds: F Connor Chartier (14 goals, 32 points); F Liam Stewart (seven goals, 21 assists in injury-plagued season); F Marcus Messier (31 total points), a late-season acquisition from Tri-City.
The imports: Austrian F Dominic Zwerger (16 goals, 10 assists); D Tamas Laday (6-foot-7, 212 pounds) of Hungary was selected in the CHL import draft.
Key returnees: D Jason Fram (51 assists); F Adam Helewka (23 goals, 50 points); F Riley Whittingham (13 goals, 32 points); D Colton Bobyk.
New faces: G Alex Moodie was acquired from Saskatoon. F Kailer Yamamoto was signed and joins his sophomore brother Keanu (11 goals, 25 points).
Watch for: The goalie battle between Moodie and Garret Hughson, last year's backup; the emergence of young defencemen; a favourable early schedule with nine of the first 14 games at home.
Just notes: Spokane dashed out to a 10-2 record last year and finished 14-4 against the B.C. Division and 10-4-2 against the Eastern Conference.
Did you know? The Chiefs have lost 16 consecutive games to U.S. Division rival Portland.
The prognosis: This could be a long season for the Chiefs, who lost a big chunk of their offensive power, veteran leadership on defence and their top goaltender. New blood will have to rise to the challenge.
— CHRIS DERRICK/Spokane Spokesman-Review
Last season: 32-29-11; third in B.C. Division, seventh in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Troy Ward (first season.)
Assistant coaches: Matt Erhart (second season), Yogi Svejkovsky (eighth season), Eli Wilson (goalie coach, second season).
Key losses: F Cain Franson, F Tim Traber and D Dalton Thrower graduated. D Brett Kulak is expected to play pro in Calgary's system.
The 20-year-olds: F Dalton Sward, F Joel Hamilton and F Matt Bellerive.
The imports: D Dmitry Osipov, a Russian who was the first overall pick in the 2013 CHL import draft, returns for second season. F Vladimir Bobylev, a Russian, is a 17-year-old freshman.
Key returnees: F Carter Popoff was Vancouver's leader in points last season, with 64. F Jackson Houck was tops in goals, with 34. D Mason Geertsen played significant minutes.
New faces: F Tyler Benson was the first overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft. He's been superb through the preseason, showing a savvy two-way game. D Clayton Kirichenko came over from Saskatoon for a pair of draft picks.
Watch for: F Alec Baer and D Arvin Atwal to have breakthrough seasons, considering how well they performed in the preseason.
Noteworthy: F Ty Ronning suffered a broken collarbone in preseason and is expected to miss at least the first four weeks, if not more, of the regular season. . . . Ward, the former head coach of the AHL's Abbotsford Heat, is promising a more offensive, puck-possession approach than the Giants had under Don Hay, who guided them for 10 seasons but was let out of the last year of his contract to take a gig with the Kamloops Blazers.
Did you know: The Giants are bidding to play host to the 2016 Memorial Cup, as are the Red Deer Rebels.
The prognosis: There's much to figure out. How will Ward handle juniors? Will his scheme work? How will Benson do? Vancouver, led by young talent, should make the playoffs, though.
— STEVE EWEN/Vancouver Province
Last season: 29-33-10; eighth in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Mike Williamson (first season).
Assistant coaches: Brian Pellerin (first season), Lyle Mast (goaltending coach, third season).
Key losses: D Mitch Topping, last year’s captain; F Phil Tot (15 goals in 51 games); F Jessey Astles, who kept everyone in line.
The 20-year-olds: D Justin Hamonic, who was named team captain. Speedy F Lucas Nickles, who had four shorthanded goals last season. F Jackson Playfair, acquired from Spokane at trade deadline. F Steven Hodges, acquired in an offseason trade with Victoria, is at Florida Panthers camp and not likely to return.
The imports: Russian forwards Vladislav Lukin and Semyon Krasheninnikov, both 17 and acquired in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: G Eric Comrie, who finished second in the WHL last season with a .925 save percentage. F Brian Williams, who led the team with 36 goals and 56 points. Hamonic, one of the top stay-at-home back-enders in the Western Conference.
New faces: F Maxwell James, who can score and punish opponents. F Zach Andrusiak, who had 36 goals with 52 assists last year at PoE.
Watch for: Comrie and the defence to keep the team in games until the scoring comes around. Hamonic, Parker Wotherspoon, Brandon Carlo, Riley Hillis and Josh Thrower all return on the blue line.
Noteworthy: The Americans look to have one of the top goaltending tandems in the league in Comrie and Evan Sarthou, who played for the United States U-18 team that finished third at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.
Did you know: Comrie broke Aaron Baker’s single-season franchise save record with 1,849. Baker had 1,825 saves in 1997-98.
The prognosis: New coach, new game plan, renewed energy throughout the team. Look for the Americans to improve on last season’s eighth-place finish in the Western Conference and get past the first round in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
— ANNIE FOWLER/Tri-City Herald
Last season: 27-37-8; ninth in Western Conference, missed playoffs.
Head coach: Mark Holick (third season).
Assistants: Michael Hengen (first season), Roman Vopat (first season), Brent Arsenault (educational assistant, 10th season), Justin Cardinal (goaltending consultant, second season).
Key losses: F Todd Fiddler (50G, 98P), graduated; F Troy Bourke (29G, 85P, going pro with Colorado); F Zach Pochiro (27G, 66P, in St. Louis’ system); F Klarc Wilson (27G, 60P, graduated); G Brett Zarowny (chose not to return); F Alex Forsberg (traded to Saskatoon); F Jordan Tkatch (traded to Prince Albert).
The 20-year-olds: F Jari Erricson (missed all but four games with a concussion); F Chance Braid (seven goals, 24 points with Prince Albert); D Wil Tomchuk (six assists in 51 games split between Tri-City and Prince George).
The imports: F David Soltes of Slovakia (four goals, five points in 15 games before knee injury); D Martin Bobos of Slovakia (seven assists, 67 games).
Key returnees: F Jansen Harkins (10G, 34P as 16-year-old); F Chase Witala (18G, 32P in 43 games); D Marc McNulty (17G, 42P, drafted by Detroit in sixth round, 2013); G Ty Edmonds (3.85 GAA, 19-19-6).
New faces: Braid (acquired from Prince Albert); F Haydn Hopkins (acquired from Saskatoon); F Lance Yaremchuk (acquired from Prince Albert); F Cody McAuley (Sherwood Park midget AAA); D Josh Anderson (South Island major midget).
Watch for: Harkins to emerge as an NHL prospect (the son of new Cougars GM Todd Harkins helped Canada win gold at Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament); Erricson to stay healthy and become a dominant winger; Edmonds to show the benefits of playing 55 games with the Cats last season as a freshman.
Just notes: The Cougars have not had a winning season since 2006-07 and have missed the postseason in five of the past seven years. Since the franchise moved to P.G. from Victoria in 1994, the team has advanced just twice to the third playoff round (1997 and 2007).
Did you know: The Cougars averaged just 1,693 fans in 2013-14 (lowest in WHL). New ownership group, which includes NHL defencemen Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis, dubs its marketing strategy the New Ice Age and has the city excited about the team again after years of indifference.
Prognosis: Young defence is a big question mark but should have adequate scoring, toughness and goaltending. Bigger crowds at CN Centre would bring fun back into the building and should be worth at least an extra goal per game for the Cats. They will make the playoffs.
— TED CLARKE/Prince George Citizen
Last season: 14-53-2-3, last in 10-team Western Conference.
Head coach: Don Hay (first season).
Associate coach: Mark Ferner (second season).
Assistant coaches: Dan De Palma (goaltending, sixth season), Mike Needham (skills, fourth season).
Key losses: D Sam Grist graduated. Swiss D Edson Harlacher stayed home.
The 20-year-olds: D Brady Gaudet, who was traded to the Red Deer Rebels on Oct. 21, 2012, and reacquired over the summer; G Bolton Pouliot, another acquisition from Red Deer; F Chase Souto, a Californian entering his fifth season, went home early in camp with concussion issues left over from last season. His career is in doubt.
The imports: Swiss D Michael Fora, who turns 19 on Oct. 30, and Slovakian D Patrik Maier, who will be 18 on Nov. 6, were selected in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: Pouliot, the No. 1 goaltender. Ryan Rehill, a big horse and a minute-eater, and Josh Connolly, a gambler, on the back end. F Matt Revel, F Matt Needham and F Cole Ully, who have to score. Injuries limited Needham to 42 games and 35 points last season. F Collin Shirley, acquired from the Kootenay Ice last season, has to be better than 27 points.
New faces: F Jake Kryski, the 13th overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft, and F Quinn Benjafield, the 19th pick in that draft. Kryski, from Vancouver, was acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders during the summer of 2013. Benjafield is from North Vancouver.
Watch for: Ully to continue to show that he is one of the WHL’s best forwards. . . . Rehill to bang his way into the psyches of opposing forwards.
Noteworthy: Hay last coached the Blazers in 1994-95 when they won their third Memorial Cup in four seasons. He spent the past 10 seasons as head coach of the Vancouver Giants.
Did you know: The forwards on this season’s roster accounted for 86 WHL goals last season, with Ully scoring 30 of those.
The prognosis: The Blazers are coming off the worst season in franchise history. They’ll be better, but it’ll be an uphill struggle to make the playoffs.
— GREGG DRINNAN/Taking Note (

Blades, Pats cut a deal . . . NHL facing another concussion-related lawsuit

THE DEAL: The Saskatoon Blades acquired D Isaac Schacher, 19, from the Regina Pats for an eighth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft.
THE SKINNY: The Pats, who had nine defencemen on their roster, get a draft pick for an older player who was in tough to stick. . . . The Blades continue to shape a roster that didn’t make the playoffs last sesaon.
THE ANALYSIS: Saskatoon hopes that the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Schacher will bring some physical play to their back end. He played 35 games with the Victoria Royals and 25 with Regina last season, putting up nine points, eight of them assists. He also was plus-22. . . . In junior B, playing with his hometown Kimberley, B.C., Dynamiters, he had 63 points in 95 games over two seasons, so there might be more offence there than he has shown. . . . Schacher now is one of 10 defencemen on Saskatoon’s roster.


Last week, the WHL announced that Yves Lacasse, a retired RCMP superintendent, was being brought on board as its voluntary security officer.
On Wednesday, in a Kamloops courtroom, Lacasse was described as a “bully” who headed up an RCMP detachment that was “dysfunctional in the extreme.”
This was all part of testimony that was heard during a trial B.C. Supreme Court in which RCMP Cpl. Rick Brown is facing a charge of breach of trust by a public officer. It involves his role in an incident that involved two intoxicated women taking part in explicit sex acts while jailed.
Retired Staff Sgt. Gary Kerr testified that Lacasse was “was extremely, extremely difficult to work for. He was an extreme bully.”
Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week was in the courtroom and his story is right here.
When the WHL announced Lacasse’s appointment, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week wrote a story in which Lacasse spoke about what he hoped and planned on doing in the new position. That story is right here.
The Prince George Cougars got down to two goaltenders by releasing G Matt Kustra, 17, who was an eighth-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft. He is expected to join the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers. . . . The Cougars, who open against the Winterhawks in Portland on Saturday, are carrying 27 players, including goaltenders Ty Edmonds, 18, and Tavin Grant, 16. . . . Prince George has 10 defencemen on its roster, including veteran Raymond Grewal, 19, who is injured, and 15 forwards, including the injured David Soltes.
Ma’ake Kemoeatu played for the Baltimore Ravens. His brother, Chris, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Today, neither one is playing football, nor will they. . . . Chris needed a kidney transplant. Ma’ake, the oldest of seven children, was quick to offer up a kidney. . . . The transplant took place on Aug. 27. . . . The complete story, and it’s an interesting one, is right here.


"A new lawsuit filed against the National Hockey League by two former players alleges that three in 10 retired players have, or will have, brain damage from head injuries or concussions," writes Rick Westhead, TSN's senior correspondent. "The startling allegation is being made in a statement of claim filed by Sasha Pokulok, who was selected by the Washington Capitals with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft,  and Simon Danis-Pepin, a 2006 second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks."
There now have been at least six concussion-related lawsuits filed against the NHL.
Westhead's complete story is right here.
A story at begins: “An experimental positron emission tomography (PET) tracer is effective in diagnosing concussion-related brain disease while a person is still alive, according to a case study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and at Molecular Neuroimaging (MNI) LLC in New Haven, and published September 16 in the journal Translational Psychiatry.”
What this means is that the medical community is that much closer to being able to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a living person.
The Science Daily story is right here.
David Ash, the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns, has given up football due to multiple concussions. He suffered his third concussion in the last year in the Longhorns’ season-opener against North Texas. Ash was held out of Texas’s last two games, but now has retired. . . . Ash is the second NCAA starting QB, joining Uconn’s Casey Cochran, to quit in the last few days because of concussion problems.

The Prince Albert Raiders have released F Ryan Pruden, 18, getting their roster down to 27 players, including 10 defencemen and 15 forwards. Pruden, a 13th-round pick by the Saskatoon Blades in the 2011 bantam draft, was pointless in three games with the Blades last season. A Winnipegger, he also played last season with the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons and OCN Blizzard. He is expected to return to the MJHL. . . .
Scott Sepich, a Portland freelancer, tweeted Tuesday that F Adam de Champlain, 20, had left the Portland Winterhawks for the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. The Winterhawks confirmed it on Wednesday, saying in a news release that de Champlain “has elected” to play in the AJHL. . . .
The Edmonton Oilers’ rookies beat the U of Alberta Golden Bears 4-2 in their annual game last night at Clare Drake Arena. More than 3,000 fans paid $30 a pop to watch the game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WHL Eastern Conference preview . . .

The WHL’s 49th regular-season gets started on Friday.
Here is a look at the Eastern Conference’s 12 teams, thanks to reporters who cover the WHL (teams appear in order of last season's finish; the Western Conference will appear tomorrow):

Last season: 50-19-3; won WHL championship and Memorial Cup.
Head coach: Steve Hamilton (first season as head coach, fifth with team).
Assistant coach: Ryan Marsh (first season).
Key losses: D Cody Corbett, F Riley Kieser and F Reid Petryk graduated. LW Mitch Moroz (Edmonton Oilers), D Griffin Reinhart (New York Islanders) and F Henrik Samuelsson (Arizona Coyotes) are likely to stick in the pros.
The 20-year-olds: F Edgars Kulda, D Blake Orban, G Tyler Santos and D Ashton Sautner. Kulda (Coyotes) may stick in the pros. Santos is competing with freshman Patrick Dea for the backup goalie job.
The imports: The Oil Kings are one over the limit, with three – veterans Kulda, a Latvian, and F Mads Eller, a Dane, along with Russian newcomer Marsel Ibragimov, 17. If neither Kulda nor Eller (Dallas Stars) sticks in the pros, one will have to be traded.
Key returnees: 2014 NHL draft picks F Brandon Baddock (New Jersey Devils) D Aaron Irving (Nashville Predators) D Dysin Mayo (Coyotes) and F Brett Pollock (Stars) all are expected back. The team will go as far as G Tristan Jarry, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013 and a candidate to be Canada’s World Junior starter, takes them.
New Faces: F Brayden Brown, F Davis Koch, F Garan Magnes and D Chance Patterson are among the next crop of Oil Kings, players who dressed for a game or two last season and now get an opportunity to become regulars.
Watch for: The immediate future of the Oil Kings rests largely on the pro fate of Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators), the heart and soul of the team, who may or may not make the grade in the NHL. If he returns, he’ll be the team’s captain and top offensive threat. If not, the entire complexion of the team changes.
Noteworthy: The Oil Kings have half-a-dozen players in pro camps. At their home-opener Saturday, when the Memorial Cup banner is raised to the Rexall Place rafters, the Oil Kings’ lineup could feature as few as four players who saw the ice in their championship victory in May.
Did you know: In 40 career WHL playoff games, F Luke Bertolucci has eight goals, exactly as many as he has in 104 regular-season games. After scoring six times in the last regular season, he picked up six goals in the 2014 playoffs and scored twice in the Memorial Cup.
The prognosis: The roster turnover is so great that it’s almost impossible to see the Oil Kings making another championship run, but a good nucleus of young talent will keep them competitive. Everything else depends on Jarry and Lazar.
— BRIAN SWANE/Edmonton Sun
Last season: 39-26-7; first in East Division, swept in first round.
Head coach/Sr. VP of hockey operations: John Paddock (first season).
Assistants: Dave Struch (ninth in WHL, first with Pats), Darrin McKechnie (first), Rob Muntain (goalies, fourth).
Key losses: F Boston Leier, F Dyson Stevenson, D Jesse Zgraggen (all graduated), F Chandler Stephenson (signed, Washington), D Dmitry Sinitsyn (signed, KHL).
The 20-year-olds: F Patrick D’Amico, F Logan McVeigh, F Braden Christoffer.
The imports: Sophomore F Max Kammerer and freshman D Sergey Zborovskiy.
Key returnees: F Morgan Klimchuk, an NHL first-rounder and two-time 30-goal man, is poised to join the WHL’s elite. . . . His primary scoring support comes from fellow wingers Connor Gay and Dryden Hunt, both of whom are coming off breakout seasons. . . . Kyle Burroughs and Colby Williams – the only true veterans on the blueline – are expected to log big minutes and chip in offensively. . . . G Daniel Wapple is ready to excel in his first season as a full-time starter.
New faces: F Sam Steel, the second-overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft, headlines a rookie class that also includes fowards Luc Smith,  Jared McAmmond, Rykr Cole and Colton Kroeker, plus D-men James Hilsendager and Ryan Krushen.
Watch for: Steel and Zborovskiy to play major roles as rookies. . . . The Pats to go young with an eye toward the future.
Just notes: Klimchuk (assuming he returns from the Calgary Flames) is a strong candidate for the Canadian world junior team and could also be trade bait prior to the Jan. 10 deadline. . . . Long-time owner Russ Parker sold the Pats in the spring to five local businessmen known collectively as Queen City Sports and Entertainment Group.
Did you know?: Paddock is making his first foray into the junior ranks after more than 30 years in the AHL and NHL.
The prognosis: The Pats are too young and have lost too many key players to challenge for a second straight East Division title. However – barring a complete fire sale – they should have enough talent to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the conference.
— GREG HARDER/Regina Leader-Post
Last season: 48-17-3-4; second in Central Division, seeded third in Eastern Conference, lost in first round.
Head coach: Mark French (first season).
Assistants: Darcy Wakaluk (10th season), Joel Otto (seventh season), Brent Kisio (seventh season).
Key losses: G Chris Driedger, who will play in the Ottawa Senators’ organization, and F Brady Brassart, D Jaynen Rissling and D Alex Roach, all of whom graduated.
The 20-year-olds: D Kenton Helgesen, F Mike Winther, F Adam Tambellini, F Connor Rankin.
The imports: F Pavel Karnaukhov (2014 CHL import, first round), F Radel Fazleev (2013 CHL import, first round), F Pavlo Padakin (2012 CHL import, first round).
Key returnees: F Jake Virtanen was selected sixth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in June’s NHL draft. Edmonton Oilers prospect Greg Chase will battle Virtanen for team scoring lead.
New faces: F Beck Malenstyn, Karnaukhov, F Jordan Stallard, F Taylor Sanheim, F Carsen Twarynski, D Kirk Johnson, D Marshall Donald, D Jake Bean, G Evan Johnson, G Brandon Kegler.
Watch for: The Hitmen to rebound after an embarrassing first-round upset last spring.
Just notes: French coached a KHL expansion team, Medvescak Zagreb, into the playoffs in 2013-14. . . . G Mack Shields was 20-3-0 as a backup last season.
Did you know?: The Hitmen have qualified for the post-season in 16 of the last 17 seasons.
Prognosis: Virtanen, once recovered from off-season shoulder surgery, will become the league’s most dominant power forward and should help the Hitmen win the division and compete for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
— SCOTT FISHER/Calgary Sun
Last season: 44-24-3-1; fourth in Eastern Conference, lost in conference final.
General manager/head coach: Shaun Clouston (fifth season as head
coach, third as GM).
Assistant coaches: Joe Frazer (fifth season), Jerrid Sauer (first
Key losses: F Curtis Valk, who led the Tigers in goals (47) and
points (92), won 11 awards, including MVP, at team banquet. F Jacob Doty and D Dylan Bredo graduated.
The 20-year-olds: G Marek Langhamer, G Jared Rathjen, D Tommy
Vanelli, D Kyle Becker, D Tyler Lewington. Rathjen didn’t play in
the pre-season due to undisclosed medical problems and is to see a cardiologist in Calgary today. Vanelli (St. Louis) may play in the AHL.
The imports: Langhamer (Czech Republic), who may end up in the Arizona Coyotes organization, and F Markus Eisenschmid (Germany).
Key returnees: Vanelli, Langhamer, F Trevor Cox, F Cole Sanford, Lewington, F Miles Koules, F Steven Owre. Koules and Lewington are in the Washington Capitals’ main camp, while D Ty Stanton, 19, is with the Detroit Red Wings.
New faces: Rathjen, acquired from the Vancouver Giants. D David Quenneville, F Mark Rassel and F Mason Shaw are among the freshmen battling for spots.
Watch for: The Tigers to make a few moves depending on the status of Langhamer, who is signed and in camp with the Coyotes.
Noteworthy: D Connor Hobbs was a member of Canada’s under-18 team that won gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August. So was Clouston, who was a last-minute addition as an assistant coach.
Did you know: The Tigers will play their 45th and final season in the
Medicine Hat Arena. Next season, they’ll be in the $61-million regional events centre that is under construction.
The prognosis: Medicine Hat will again aim to host a playoff series
or two, presuming Langhamer returns and Cox and Koules have expected big seasons. After 12 straight seasons of reaching the playoffs, the Tigers’ fans have come to expect nothing less.
— RYAN McCRACKEN and SEAN ROONEY/Medicine Hat News
Last season: 38-25-3-6; fifth in Eastern Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Mark Lamb (sixth season as coach and general manager).
Assistant coaches: Jamie Heward (third season), Josh Dixon (first season).
Key losses: G Eetu Laurikainen, F Nathan Burns and F Graham Black graduated.
The 20-year-olds: F Coda Gordon and F Colby Cave reached 70 points last season. Stephen Shmoorkoff is a longshot to hold down the sixth D spot, leaving the final spot to F Andrew Johnson.
The imports: Finnish D Julius Honka (16G, 40A) again will quarterback a potent power play. Swede Andreas Schumacher, 18, was selected in the 2014 CHL import draft and impressed during camp with his speed and shot.
Key returnees: Cave, Gordon and Jay Merkley (34G, 32A) lead the forward group, with big things also expected from sophomores Glenn Gawdin (10G, 12A) and Jake DeBrusk (15G, 24A). Honka is part of a D corps that also includes Dillon Heatherington, Brett Lernout and Brycen Martin. All four are NHL draft picks, none taken after the third round. Landon Bow takes over for Laurikainen in goal after two years as understudy to one of the league's best.
New faces: F Tyler Steenbergen and F Cole Johnson (12th and 34th overall, 2013) stood out in camp and will push a number of veterans for playing time. F Luca Leone, acquired from Vancouver for D Bobby Zinkan, and Schumacher, along with 1997 F Tyler Adams and 1995 F Austin Calladine also will start the season in Swift Current. Travis Child makes his WHL debut as Bow’s backup.
Watch for: Upgrades to the 20-year-olds and goaltending if Johnson or Bow struggle, as expectations are sky-high this season.
Noteworthy: Cave has played in 148 straight WHL games. He has missed only two games since joining the Broncos full-time in 2011-12.
Did you know: The team's 38 victories last season were the most of Lamb's five seasons. Honka (14th overall to Dallas) was the Broncos' first first-round NHL draft pick since F Nathan Smith (Vancouver) in 2000.
The prognosis: The Broncos should once again battle with Brandon for the regular-season crown in another weak East Division. Goaltending will determine how they fare come playoffs, but the team believes it’s a contender and anything short of the conference final will be a crushing disappointment.
— BRAD BROWN/Prairie Post
Last season: 39-28-2-3; sixth in Eastern Conference, lost in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Ryan McGill (third season in second stint; previously coached Ice from 1998-2002).
Assistant coaches: Jay Henderson (second season); Mike Bergren (goaltending coach, third season); Wayne Dougherty (skills and development coach, first season).
Key losses: F Sam Reinhart led the Ice with 105 points in 2013-14. After being awarded the Four Broncos Trophy as WHL player of the year, Reinhart was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014 NHL entry draft. The 2014 CHL sportsman of the year is signed and may stick with the Sabres. F Tim Bozon (62 points) is expected to move on to the AHL after recovering from Neisseria meningitis. D Jagger Dirk graduated.
The 20-year-olds: F Austin Vetterl, F Levi Cable, G Mackenzie Skapski. Skapski could stick with the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford.
The imports: F Alexander Chirva (Russia), D Rinat Valiev (Russia).
Key returnees: F Jaedon Descheneau, F Luke Philp, D Tanner Faith, Valiev. All four are at NHL camps, but expected to return.
New faces: Chirva, who was picked in the 2014 CHL import draft; rookie forwards Austin Wellsby, Vince Loschiavo, Jared Legien looking for openings. Rookie blueliners Cale Fleury, Bryan Allbee, Mark O'Shaughnessy remain in the mix.
Watch for: Philp to take over the reigns of this club, both in terms of leadership and offence, with the expected move to the NHL by former captain Reinhart.
Noteworthy: Fleury was invited to Hockey Canada's U-17 development camp this summer; he is the younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes 2014 first-round pick Haydn Fleury.
Did you know: The Ice have made the WHL playoffs in 16 consecutive seasons. The team will look to build on its WHL record of 15 consecutive regular seasons with a record of .500 or better.
The prognosis: The Ice should build on that WHL regular-season record, while also extending the playoff-appearance run. But there is no replacing a player like Reinhart. How far the team goes will depend on the emergence of youngsters like Fleury, Legien and Loschiavo.
— TAYLOR ROCCA/Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Last season: 34-29-6-3; seventh in conference, eliminated in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Kelly McCrimmon (12th season as coach, 26th as general manager).
Assistant coaches: Darren Ritchie (eighth season), David Anning (third), Matt Cockell (goaltending, sixth).
Key loss: Ryan Pulock, Brandon’s top defenceman three straight seasons, is set to play professionally as a 20-year-old after being chosen 15th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2013 NHL draft.
The 20-year-olds: D Eric Roy (Calgary Flames), F Peter Quenneville (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Czech F Richard Nejezchleb (New York Rangers) were all in pro camps, but are unsigned. If all three come back, Brandon could have one of the top trios in the WHL.
The imports: Latvian F Rihards Bukarts (28G, 26A) and Russian freshman D Ivan Provorov are holding the spots for now. If Nejezchleb returns, either he or Bukarts will have to be traded, or Provorov will be released. A freshman import can’t be traded.
Key returnees: F John Quenneville (25G, 33A) and F Jayce Hawryluk (24G, 40A) were picked 30th overall by the New Jersey Devils and 32nd by the Florida Panthers, respectively, in the 2014 NHL draft. . . . F Tim McGauley (21G, 39A) is one of the team’s best two-way forwards. . . . G Jordan Papirny was stellar in last season’s playoffs (.914 save pct.). . . . D Ryan Pilon (7G, 29A) was Pulock’s understudy and will handle increased responsibility.
New faces: F Nolan Patrick and D Kale Clague were picked fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. . . . F Tanner Kaspick was the top goal-scorer in this summer’s Canadian under-17 development camp.
Watch for: The Wheat Kings will score plenty of goals, but if preventing them becomes a problem, expect a trade for veteran help.
Noteworthy: Provorov is new to the WHL, but played the last three years in the United States.
Did you know: Hawryluk is the second Wheat King drafted 32nd overall by Florida, joining G Tyler Plante (2005 draft).
The prognosis: With abundant young talent, and 2014 No.1 overall pick Stelio Mattheos arriving next season, the Wheat Kings are poised to join the WHL’s elite. With some tweaking, that could happen this season.
Last season: 35-32-3-2; eighth in Eastern Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Cory Clouston (second season).
Assistant coaches: Tim Leonard (third season), Dave Manson (second season as associate coach).
Key losses: G Cole Cheveldave and F Collin Valcourt (graduated), F Chance Braid (traded to Prince George), F Carson Perreaux (retired).
The 20-year-olds: The Raiders are juggling four – F Dakota Conroy, F Jayden Hart, F Calder Brooks and D Sawyer Lange.
The imports: Should F Leon Draisaitl stick with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, the Raiders will move forward with two Czechs – F Simon Stransky and D Tomas Andrlik.
Key returnees: Raiders GM Bruno Campese is working under the assumption that NHL prospects Draisaitl and D Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg) won’t return. Lange will be leaned on to provide offence from the back end and anchor the power play, while F Reid Gardiner will compete for top-line minutes. G Nick McBride looks to establish himself as a bona fide starter after stealing the net from Cheveldave near the end of last season.
New faces: D Hunter Warner provides a big-body presence that was somewhat absent from the Raiders’ blue line last season. F Jordan Tkatch is a versatile forward coming off a 46-point season with Prince George.
Watch for: Gardiner to have a big season and show NHL clubs why they were crazy to pass on him in the 2014 draft. A promising core of 1997s in Stransky, McBride, F Matteo Gennaro and D Brendan Guhle to shine a bright light on the Raiders’ future.
Noteworthy: Last season, McBride was the first 16-year-old goaltender since 2001 to be on the team’s roster full-time.
Did you know: Clouston has never missed the post-season as a head coach in the WHL.
The prognosis: If Morrissey and Draisaitl return, the Raiders will contend for the East Division crown. If not, the Raiders just might have enough depth to eke out a playoff spot as McBride breaks out as one of the league’s elite goaltenders.
— ANDREW SCHOPP/Prince Albert Daily Herald
Last season: 35-32-1-4; ninth in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs.
General manager/head coach: Brent Sutter (11th season).
Associate coach: Jeff Truitt (third season).
Assistant coaches: Steve O’Rourke (second season), Taylor Dakers (goaltenders, second season).
Key losses: G Patrik Bartosak, whose .924 save percentage was third-best in the league, and F Rhyse Dieno ( 25-41-66), to graduation. F Aspen Sterzer, 20, will attend university.
The 20-year-olds: F Brooks Maxwell; D Brett Cote, acquired from Victoria; Devan Fafard, who moves from defence to forward.
The imports: Latvian D Hugo Jansons and Slovak D Mario Grman, both 17, were selected in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: D Haydn Fleury and F Conner Bleackley were selected in the first round of the 2014 NHL entry draft; Maxwell and F Presten Kopeck are candidates to wear a letter; F Wyatt Johnson, D Kayle Doetzel and F Evan Polei were invited to NHL camps and are back with the Rebels; F Grayson Pawlenchuk and F Adam Musil are expected to have breakout sophomore seasons.
New faces: F Jeff de Wit, the club’s first pick in the 2013 bantam draft and D Josh Mahura, taken in the second round; Cote; G Ryan Toth, 18; Grman and Jansons; D Austin Strand, F Brayden Burke and F Mason McCarty, all 17.
Watch for: Toth and returnee Taz Burman, 17, to share goaltending duties almost equally early in the season.
Noteworthy: Musil was a member of Canada’s U18 team that won gold at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in August.
Did you know: The Rebels haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2004.
The prognosis: The team will score more in 2014-15 and the defence is much improved in terms of skill and agility. The question is: Can Burman and Toth supply the goaltending necessary to make a move up the standings? If so, the Rebels will qualify for post-season play.
— GREG MEACHEM/Red Deer Advocate
Last season: 21-42-3-6; 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Head coach: Tim Hunter (first season).
Assistant coach: Mark O’Leary (third season).
Key losses: F Sam Fioretti and D Jesse Forsberg graduated. The Warriors also traded veteran forwards Colton McCarthy, Josh Uhrich and Miles Warkentine, while veteran F Bryson Gore opted not to return.
The 20-year-olds: Forwards Tanner Eberle, Jack Rodewald and Jaimen Yakubowski are expected to beat out RW Scott Cooke.
The imports: Russian D Alexey Sleptsov had a strong IIHF World Under-18s and will look to contribute more in his second season. Tall Czech F Jiri Smejkal was taken 12th overall in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: F Brayden Point had 91 points last season, the most since Troy Brouwer led the league in scoring in 2005-06. Goaltending tandem Justin Paulic and Zach Sawchenko will be leaned upon heavily. Veteran defencemen Spenser Jensen, Dallas Valentine and Reid Zalitach will be asked to assume larger roles.
New faces: The Warriors have high hopes for towering D Austin Adam, 19, who came over from Everett. Noah Gregor (Alberta midget AAA scoring champion) and former first-round bantam pick Brett Howden (younger brother of Quinton Howden) – both 16 – will be expected to chip in offensively. Yakubowski and Kolten Olynek add to the depth up front.
Watch for: Forwards Howden, Gregor and Jayden Halbgewachs to play significant roles in their freshman seasons.
Noteworthy: Sawchenko started in goal as Canada’s under-18s won the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament over the summer.
Did you know: Head coach Mike Stothers left over the summer after three years. He now is head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
The prognosis: The Warriors revamped their offence in a bid to end their two-year playoff absence. They’re going to need increased production and strong goaltending to compensate for an inexperienced defence. Anything less than a return to the playoffs would be a massive disappointment, though they aren’t likely to rise above the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference.
— MATTHEW GOURLIE/Moose Jaw Times-Herald
Last season: 16-51-2-3; last in the East Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Head coach: Bob Woods (first season).
Assistant coach: Dean Brockman (first season).
Key losses: D MacKenzie Johnston, D Dylan Busenius, F Connor Sanvido to graduation. G Alex Moodie was dealt to Spokane. D Clayton Kirichenko was traded to Vancouver.
The 20-year-olds: F Brett Stovin is the longest-serving Blade with 191 regular-season games to his credit. G Troy Trombley ended last season as the starter. F Chase Clayton also is in the mix.
The imports: Russian F Nikita Scherbak was the Blades’ leading scorer with 78 points. Russian F Nikita Soshnin and Swedish D Amil Krupic were added in the 2014 CHL import draft. One will have to be dropped if Scherbak, a first-round pick by the Montreal Canadiens, returns from the NHL. Or, they could trade Scherbak.
Key returnees: Possibly Scherbak. D Nelson Nogier missed half of last season with a shoulder injury. He’ll be the No. 1 defenceman. F Ryan Graham, who earned an invite to Minnesota Wild camp. Draft-eligible F Cameron Hebig.
New faces: Freshman F Wyatt Sloboshan, acquired from Swift Current on New Year’s Day. D Jordan Thomson finished the season in Saskatoon and now is a full timer. Former first-round bantam picks Ty Mappin and Alex Forsberg – the top choice in 2010 – are key additions up front.
Watch for: The Blades to make upgrades to their goaltending and 20-year-old spots. The possible trade of Scherbak.
Noteworthy: Nogier was drafted in the fourth round (101st overall) by the Winnipeg Jets in June. He became the first born and raised player from the Saskatoon area to be selected in the NHL draft as a Blade since G Michael Garnett (third round, 80th overall, Atlanta Thrashers, 2001).
Did you know: Long before Woods coached in the NHL as an assistant with Washington and Anaheim, he was a defenceman with the Brandon Wheat Kings (1987-89).
The prognosis: The Blades, who played host to the 2013 Memorial Cup, underwent a full-scale rebuild last season and posted the second-worst record in their 50-year history. They’ve improved, but almost certainly not enough to make the playoffs.
— DANIEL NUGENT-BOWMAN/Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Last season: 12-55-2-3; the poorest record in the 60-team CHL.
Head coach: Drake Berehowsky (second season).
Assistant coaches: Bryan Maxwell (first season), Mike Craig (second season), Jeff Battah (goaltenders, second season).
Key losses: F Josh Derko (11G, 5A), the captain, graduated and 19-year-old D Macoy Erkamps didn’t report to training camp, demanding a trade.
The 20-year-olds: D Nick Walters, D Tyler Bell and F Riley Sheen. Sheen (knee) is on the limp, but should return soon to provide needed offence. Bell was one of the team’s few shot-blockers.
Key returnees: F Reid Duke (15G, 25A), who held out of training camp, and a healthy F Tyler Wong (17G, 14A) will need to stay healthy and motivated because this team needs help up front. Duke was drafted by the Minnesota Wild (6th round, 169th overall) then skipped Lethbridge’s training camp, hoping for a trade that never happened.
New faces: Start with Maxwell, a former Canes GM/head coach, who provides the only experienced hand on the bench. The two-time Memorial Cup-champion coach will handle the defence and is the first public relations victory for the organization in years. . . . F Jaeger White is only 16 but was the most electrifying player in the preseason. A speedy forward with something to prove after being passed by 71 times in the 2013 bantam draft, White plays like an angry young man — with loads of skill. . . . Another rookie, G Stuart Skinner, will be the team’s starting goalie, based on training camp hype alone. Skinner, who doesn’t turn 16 until Nov. 1, had a four-game tryout at the end of last season. He’ll battle with another rookie, 18-year-old Zac Robidoux, for starts but Robidoux has even less experience (two games with Medicine Hat last season) than Skinner.
Watch for: Duke, since most observers feel he came back because of a promise to be dealt. Otherwise, keep an eye on Skumatov, who looks like a dynamic offensive threat with plenty of grease on a team lacking both.
Noteworthy: The Hurricanes were in financial distress during last season and the WHL got involved in the off-season, telling Lethbridge City Council that if certain targets weren’t met, there would be consequences. All the ominous pronouncement did was enhance the soap opera surrounding the Hurricanes.
Did you know: Maxwell won the 1987 Memorial Cup with Medicine Hat, then won it again in 1991 with the Spokane Chiefs before overseeing a WHL championship team in Lethbridge in 1997. He was fired by the Hurricanes in 2002-03.
The prognosis: Another struggling season but at least there appears to be a plan in Lethbridge, as the defence has added height — with heft coming as those players age. The forwards continue to be on the small side, but White and the two Russians should add some excitement while the management tries to avoid the league’s murky admonishments.

Liong's take on concussions . . .

Dickson Liong

Concussions are unlike any other type of injury.
As a young boy growing up, I was extremely ignorant of all types of injuries. I thought, well, if I fell, I'd just get back up and over time whatever I hurt was going to heal.
I was right, for the most part.
I was born with cerebral palsy, which affects my walking. As a result, I need a walker or some type of support. Because of that, I've had a lot of situations where I have fallen or tripped and been injured.
I've had my fair share of concussions, too. There was one incident that I remember like it happened yesterday. I was in Grade 2 or 3, and I was playing outside with a friend during lunch hour. It all was in good fun until my wheels got caught on the curb, which put the walker on an angle. At the time, I wasn't physically strong enough to get my walker on even ground, and it went straight backward.
I heard “KONCK“ as my head hit concrete at full force.
“Are you OK?” my friend asked, in obvious concern.
“I'm fine,” I uttered.
But I clearly wasn't. When I tried to get up, I couldn't.
I'd try again, and again, but I just ended up laying on the ground every time. I didn't want attention put on me while in that situation, but it ended up happening anyway. All the parents, students and teachers came running to see what was wrong. I was just laying on the ground like a starfish. A mother of one of the kids got on her knees and spoke extremely close to my face.
“Honey, you will be fine,” she said.
Then she screamed for someone to call 9-1-1 and request an ambulance.
I didn't really know what was going on, so I didn't respond to anything she said. Thank goodness she didn't have bad breath; she was inches away from my face and it could have looked like she was making out with me. Anyway, within minutes an ambulance showed up, by which point I was really scared.
It was my first time experiencing the big emergency truck.
“What's happening?” I said to my teacher as they loaded me into the ambulance. “What's going on?” I had no idea where I was going.
“These people are just taking you somewhere to make sure you’re OK,” my support worker said. He rode to Children's Hospital with me.
When I got there, they did a bunch of tests on me, and a few hours later my mom showed up and began asking me how I ended up in the hospital.
One of the translators jumped in and explained what had happened and what the doctor was saying to her. The doctor said I was doing fine and I was free to head home. The wooziness was gone.
I really didn't know what concussions were, until I got in my early teenage years where I started hearing about the issue during NHL broadcasts. But, even then, I still didn't understand the impact of a head injury.
Norm Weseen, one of my close friends, reads this blog every day for hockey news. In the summer of 2011, Gregg Drinnan, the founder of Taking Note, posted that there was going to be a conference focusing on head injuries at the University of British Columbia's Brain Research Centre on Sept. 21 and provided a link to the registration information.
You may recall that awareness on concussions had started to heat up because Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player in the NHL, had suffered a concussion in the 2010-11 season from blindside hits to the head.
With that in mind, Weseen, a great man who is always willing to help people, saw the post and decided to call me right away.
“Hey, bozo,” he said, jokingly. “Gregg says there's a conference at UBC on concussions. You interested?”
“Yeah,” I replied, knowing what had happened with Crosby.
“OK, I'll figure out how to register and I'll pick you up at 7.”
“OK,” I said.
Now it was Sept. 21 and we were close to getting there. But UBC has so many building that it took us 20 minutes to find the right one, and we arrived just in time.
As I entered the conference room, there was five minutes until the opening remarks and there weren’t any media people in attendance.
I thought to myself that “maybe they're just running late.”
As the time came to start the conference and the security people came to shut the doors, there still were no reporters there. I was the only person there that does media. The rest were students. I was baffled at the fact that there was no media. Don't they want to cover something that has not only a huge impact on hockey, but sports altogether? Shocking.
Anyway, most of the speakers’ presentations went so fast that I didn't understand 90 per cent of each one. But when I attend coaching clinic, they always say that it's not about taking in all the presentations, it's about learning one item at a time. So taking in 10 per cent of each presentation was pretty good in my books.
But there was one presentation that I paid more attention to than the others. It was by Dr. Ann McKee of Boston College and she talked about the major consequences after suffering a head injury.
“What the hell?” I said to Weseen, who was seated beside me. “There's consequences?”
“I don't know,” he replied, with a laugh. “Just shut up and listen.”
During McKee's presentation, she mentioned two names that really got my attention. One being Crosby, and the other being Rob Van Dam, a WWE wrestler. Aside from watching hockey, I've been watching professional wrestling on a weekly basis since I was two years of age. McKee explained that because of Van Dam's high-flying style, he had suffered a number of concussions. This proved to me that wrestling wasn't fake, but that the outcomes are scripted in order to create storylines.
Then she showed the people in attendance something I had never before seen. She displayed pictures of brains that had suffered concussion and the sort of damage it does. When athletes suffer a concussion, it puts a brown spot on the brain, and it stays forever. The ones with the brown spots are more prone to another concussion, which will make the brown spot darker and perhaps even larger. If it gets bad enough, athletes having incurred a number of concussions may behave abnormally.
So that begs the question: Why are shots to the head allowed in hockey?
In terms of wrestling, I get it, it's simulated fighting. But why are shots to the head allowed in a game that, in order to obtain victory, you have to score more goals than the other team? You don't score goals with dirty hits; you do it by putting the puck in the net. What really bugs me is a pre-planned fight during a hockey game. Fine, if two players are fighting out of anger, let them be. Hockey is a game with high emotion.
But if the fight has no reason behind it, then why risk getting a head injury that could have affects later on in life? It makes no sense.
After attending the conference, I get all fired up when I hear about concussions, especially because of my own experience. Those head injuries will stay with me forever, even if a doctor tells me I'm fine.
It's not just another concussion.
Take action.

(Dickson Liong is Taking Note’s Vancouver correspondent.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The night Fleury was traded to the Pats . . . 2016 Memorial Cup will be in Red Deer or Vancouver

F Layne Ulmer (Swift Current, 1997-2001) has signed a one-year extension with Asiago (Italy, Serie A). Last season, he had 35 points, including 17 goals, in 23 games.
While tooling around the Internet the other night, I stumbled upon a book that was released this month. Written by David Ward, its title is: The Lost 10 Point Night (Searching for My Hockey Hero . . . Jim Harrison).
Jim Harrison (Estevan, 1966-68) was a terrific hockey player who battled back problems through his career; in fact, there is no doubt that the back woes kept him from being the player he could have been.
A straight shooter who had, and still has, issues with Alan Eagleson, the NHLPA, many of today's well-paid players and on and on, Harrison is a great subject for a book. Yes, there is a lot of straight shooting between the covers of this one. There also are a whole lot of great anecdotes from Harrison and many former WHL, NHL and WHA teammates.
If you are a follower of the WHL, you may recall that after his playing days, Harrison started 1987-88 as the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
While Harrison was with the Warriors, their star player was Theo Fleury. He was in his final of four WHL seasons in 1987-88; he would put up 160 points, including 68 goals, in 65 games.
There was a time early in that season, according to Harrison, when Fleury almost became a member of the Regina Pats.
The Pats at the time were owned by a group of Regina businessmen, including Bill Hicke, who had played in the NHL (Montreal Canadiens) and had been a teammate of Harrison's with the WHA's Edmonton Oilers.
So . . . there was this night when Hicke, who loved rum and coke, and Harrison, who was a beer guy, sat down to talk . . .
“Billy owned the Regina Pats when I coached in Moose Jaw,” Harrison tells Ward. “Then, because there are a lot of political things that go on in hockey, suddenly I'm not only coaching but I'm running the show for a couple of months. We knew Theo Fleury was leaving and the team wasn't doing very well. So I decided I was going to trade Fleury to Regina because Regina had a shot at the Memorial Cup, and we needed more guys who could make us better.
“Billy and I made a deal over a bottle of rum. Then ownership got word that I was going to trade Fleury, and I was fired the next day. Fleury never went to Regina, and the Pats didn't make it to the Memorial Cup.”
Ward's book is available right here.
Here’s more of the Jim Harrison story . . .
Harrison, in his first season as the Warriors' head coach, was fired on Dec. 8, 1987, moments after a 7-4 victory over the visiting Saskatoon Blades, 7-4.
Art Schoenroth, then the team's president, blamed a poor record (12-19-0) and declining attendance. The Warriors replaced Harrison with Gerry James, a former CFL and NHL player who was a legendary owner/coach in the junior A SJHL.
In February 2007, with the Warriors this time having fired head coach Steve Young, Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post would write:
“At least the Warriors got around to telling Young he was dismissed. Such a courtesy was not extended to Jim Harrison. In 1987, the Warriors announced that Harrison had been ashcanned without bothering to deliver the news to the deposed coach. Harrison's wife, Liz, learned of the firing when a newspaper reporter (yours truly) called the family's residence, seeking comment.”

THE DEAL: The Saskatoon Blades acquired G Michael Herringer, 18, from the Victoria Royals on Tuesday. According to the WHL website, the Blades gave up “conditional draft pick(s).”
THE SKINNY: Herringer was a ninth-round selection in the 2011 WHL bantam draft. From Comox, B.C., he got into two games with the Royals in 2012-13, going 1-0-0/2.39/.925. Last season, he played with the junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers and Kerry Park Islanders.
THE ANALYSIS: The Blades add a third goaltender to the mix, as Herringer joins veteran Troy Trombley, 20, and freshman Trevor Martin, 18. With Trombley being 20, adding another goaltender may provide them with another option in terms of adding a 20-year-old forward or, more likely, defenceman. . . . The Royals get a possible draft pick, or picks, for an asset, while they are prepared to open the season with veteran Coleman Vollrath, 19, and freshman Evan Smith, 17, as their goaltenders. Smith is from Parker, Colo.

The Victoria Royals have pulled out of the bidding for the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament, leaving the Red Deer Memorial CupRebels and Vancouver Giants to duke it out for the hosting rights.
Combine the Royals’ apparent evolution into a solid team and Victoria’s role as a tourist destination, you have to think it’s a shoo-in somewhere down the road, perhaps in 2019.
“As a wise man once said,” Royals GM Cam Hope told Taking Note last night, “you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”
The Royals went into the bidding for 2016 not knowing who else would be involved. Once the bids from Red Deer and Vancouver were made official, the Royals “reassessed and decided to step aside this time,” according to Hope.
You can bet, then, that Victoria will be back in the picture when it comes time to bid on the 2019 tournament.
“We’ll focus on 2019,” Hope added, “and on playing our way into the tournament in the meantime.”
Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province reports that the WHL’s board of governors will hear proposals from Red Deer and Vancouver, and will select a host site on Oct. 8.
“Voters will be looking into the financial viability of both (bids),” Ewen writes, “since a percentage of the cash goes to the league. They will also focus on which team should be more competitive, due to the fact the host spot includes that automatic berth to the tournament.
“The Saskatoon Blades beat out the Rebels . . . and the Kelowna Rockets for the 2013 host berth, and proceeded to get eliminated in four straight games in the first round of the WHL playoffs. They ended up sitting idle for 51 days. and wound up last in the Memorial Cup,
“No one will give out exact dollar figures, but Red Deer owner/operator Brent Sutter said last season that that financial guarantee the Blades offered the league to host the event was $900,000 more than what Red Deer offered.”
Vancouver played host to the Memorial Cup in 2007. The Memorial Cup was last held in Alberta in 1974.
The 2015 tournament is scheduled to be held in Quebec City.
Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province takes a look right here at Victoria Royals F Tyler Soy, who is poised to become a really solid WHL player.
The Victoria Royals and head coach Dave Lowry have agreed on a multi-year contract extension. The exact length wasn't released, but an educated guess would be three years with a club option on a fourth year.
Lowry is going into his third season as the Royals' head coach, and chances are this was to have been the third year of an original three-year deal. That being the case, and if the extension is for three years, he’ll now be signed through 2017-18.
The Royals are 83-50-11 in regular-season games during his tenure. He is the WHL's reigning coach of the year after going 48-20-4, for the franchise's first 100-point season, in 2013-14. The 48 victories and 100 points set franchise single-season records.
Lowry joined the Royals after spending three seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL's Calgary Flames. Prior to that, he was on the coaching staff of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen for four seasons, working as assistant coach, associate coach and head coach.
The Saskatoon Blades have released veteran F Logan Harland, 19. From Frenchman Butte, Sask., Harland had 22 points, 13 of them goals, in 84 regular-season games with the Blades over two seasons. He had one goal in three exhibition games. . . . Harland also played 10 games, scoring once, with the Vancouver Giants in 2011-12. . . . The Blades' roster is at 27, including three goaltenders and nine defencemen. . . . The SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers hold Harland’s junior A rights.
The Spokane Chiefs are down to 27 players after releasing two 16-year-old defencemen, Jeff Faith and Jake Toporowski, on Tuesday. . . . Faith was the 16th overall selection in the 2013 bantam draft. He will play for the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds in his hometown of Wilcox, Sask. . . . Toporowski, from Bettendorf, Iowa, was a third-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. The Chiefs aren't yet sure where he will play this season. His father, Kerry, played two seasons (1989-91) with Spokane. . . . The Chiefs are carrying three goaltenders, nine defencemen and 15 forwards.
The Saskatoon Blades haven't had a first-round pick in any of the last four bantam drafts. But they have three players on their roster who were first-round selections of other teams. “Every team in the league, including us, is going to have a situation where it doesn’t work out for a player for whatever reason,” Blades managing partner Colin Priestner told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. “Especially given that we haven’t had any first-round picks for the last (four) years, we opted to look outside the box to find players that some teams might call reclamation projects. We want to get to a position where we do enough homework that we’re confident we’re getting someone at 60 cents or sometimes 10 cents on the dollar if you look at where their talent level might be. It’s believing in our organization that we can put them in a situation where we’re confident we can turn their career around.” . . . Nugent-Bowman's complete story is right here.
Portland freelancer Scott Sepich tweeted Tuesday: “20-year-old Adam De Champlain is no longer with @pdxwinterhawks and is now on the roster of @camrosekodiaks of the AJHL.” De Champlain is from Sherwood Park, Alta. He was a 10th-round pick by the Winterhawks in the 2009 bantam draft. Over the last two seasons, he put up 14 goals and 14 assists in 103 regular-season games. He had two goals and two assists in 41 playoff games. He played for the Kodiaks in 2011-12, before heading to Portland. . . . His departure leaves the Winterhawks with two 20-year-olds -- D Josh Hanson and D Josh Smith.
NHLThe NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets and F Ryan Johansen, who is coming off his entry-level deal, have yet to agree on a new contract. And things are getting nasty, real nasty, with president John Davidson throwing around words like "extortion." . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has more right here.

"Mental illness is a big topic in the life of a hockey player," writes Ashley March of "Once things start to slow down and they take a step back to look at their life, that’s when everything comes spiralling out of control. I’ve read it in way too many player biographies. We’re getting better with the NHL’s Hockey Talks campaign but it needs to (be) more than once a year. It’s important to know that it’s okay to ask for help."
March takes an interesting look right here at what might happen when the dream starts to die.
Any sports league that gets media coverage and knows what it is doing in terms of marketing plays favourites with the media, especially when it comes to providing some reports with exclusive information in return for positive coverage. Stefan Fatsis of Slate has an interesting piece right here about how the NFL may have burned its favoured reporters during the Ray Rice mess.

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