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!


“Defenceman Chris Pronger, who knows a thing or two about dirty play, has been hired by the NHL to work in its Department of Player Safety,” writes Ian Hamilton of the Regina Leader-Post. “There, he’ll help mete out justice to players who have crossed the line. Man, talk about the pot giving the kettle a black eye.” . . . Vancouver comic Torben Rolfsen adds: “Joining (Pronger) as player rep on the Fair Play Committee will be Brad Marchand.” . . .

Here’s Hamilton with a couple of notes on Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees’ recently retired shortstop. . . . “Jeter is still cashing in on his final season in the majors,” Hamilton writes. “One of the newest items to hit the market to commemorate Jeter’s final season is a game-used sock, which can be purchased for only $409.99. That gives new meaning to the term ‘getting hosed.’ ” . . . Hamilton adds: “Anyone who buys one (or more) of Jeter’s stockings proves the adage that there’s a sock-er born every minute.” . . .

At some point in most every young boy’s life, he dreams of being a race car driver. I would like to thank the B.C. government for helping my dream come true, albeit at an advanced age. I realized last weekend, while on the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Kamloops, that on that highway we are all NASCAR drivers. . . . When the Kamloops Blazers gave goaltender Bolton Pouliot to the Portland Winterhawks the other day -- call it an early Christmas present -- it brought back memories of Jan. 19, 1983. That was the day the WHL’s Seattle Breakers traded forward Tom Martin to the Victoria Cougars for a used bus. . . .

Is it looking like the Kansas City Royals are a team of destiny, or what? . . . Outfielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels had the game-winning RBI in MLB’s all-star game, so the Royals have home-field advantage in the World Series. The Royals, of course, swept the Angels from the best-of-five ALDS. . . . Only in Bud Selig’s MLB. . . . Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer summed up the NFL perfectly the other day and it only took him 10 words. “You cannot lose games in the NFL,” the ESPN analyst said, “and still win.” . . . Hey, think about it for a moment. He’s right. . . . Headline at Report: More NFL stadiums cutting off fights after third quarter. . . .

“HelpAge International’s global rating of 96 countries has listed the best places in the world for seniors to live,” reports RJ Currie of “The top three are Norway, Sweden and the San Antonio Spurs.” . . .  Currie, again: “A British chef has invented the Glamburger, the world’s most expensive burger at $2,000 Canadian. The most expensive hot dog continues to be Alex Ovechkin.” . . . A sign of the impending apocalypse: The cover story in the Vancouver Province newspaper on Thursday dealt with what the headline referred to as ‘Man Bun’ Hazard. . . . According to the subhead: “Hairstyle being sported by cutting-edge, trendsetting men may be causing Vancouver’s hipsters to go bald.” . . . Seriously! . . .

There is a move afoot in the NBA to reduce the playing time of its games. As Currie notes: “The NBA is considering reducing games from 48 minutes to 44 minutes. And that’s just the last three minutes.” . . . Richmond, B.C., blogger TC Chong added: ““I’d go with 46. It’s the last two minutes that take forever.” . . . Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., is hoping to get his golf season started next weekend. On Saturday, he tweeted: “Looks like my first start of the season will be @McGladreyClssc next week! Slightly relieved; extremely excited!!” The McGladrey Classic is a PGA Tour event held on the Seaside course at Sea Island, Ga. . . .

“Lakers point guard Steve Nash missed practice for three straight days after he injured his back carrying his bags,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “A cynic might say it’s the first time an NBA player ever got penalized for traveling.” . . . One more from Perry: “Romanian basketball prospect Robert Bobroczky stands 7 feet 4 — at age 13. Kentucky coach John Calipari, vacationing in Bucharest, declined to comment.” . . .

Over at, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers explained the difference between the team’s new owner, Steve Ballmer, and the previous owner, the disgraced Donald Sterling: “Steve is a good dude. He’s like a cool dad who gives you candy. Donald was like a weird uncle.” . . . That would be Derek Jeter’s first post-retirement project.

(Gregg Drinnan is a former sports editor of the Regina Leader-Post and the late Kamloops Daily News. He is at and Keeping Score appears here on weekends, except when it doesn’t.)

Americans derail Rockets . . . Wheaties are feeding their fans

The Saskatoon Blades held Pink The Rink on Saturday
night. F Cory Millette wore the captain's C in memory
of his father, Adrien. The bottom of the sweater features
the names of friends and family members of the Blades
and season-ticket holders who have been impacted
by cancer.

Photo: Saskatoon Blades

Every city has those people who work incredibly hard behind the scenes to keep various sports teams and/or leagues moving forward. In Brandon, Don Sumner was one of those people. When I started in the newspaper business at the Brandon Sun in the early 1970s, I spent a lot of time covering the Manitoba Senior Baseball League; Sumner was the league statistician and the MSBL was very much his baby. He showed more than a little patience with a young writer who really was just learning the ropes. He also taught me the importance of statistics to fans and players, no matter the sport, a lesson that has never been forgotten. . . . Sumner also was heavily involved in Brandon’s curling scene. . . . He died in hospital in Brandon on Wednesday. He was 86. . . . Condolences to his family. Rest assured that he never will be forgotten. . . . Charles Tweed of the Brandon Sun has more right here.


In Kennewick, Wash., F Lucas Nickles scored twice to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 5-2 victory over Kelowna, as the Rockets tasted defeat for the first time this season. . . . Nickles, who is from Salmon Arm, B.C., has six goals. . . . The Rockets now are 10-1-0. . . . Tri-City G Eric Comrie stopped 30 shots. . . . Americans F Beau McCue broke a 2-2 tie with his fifth goal 39 seconds into the third period. . . . Tri-City head coach Mike Williamson worked his 900th WHL game. He also has coached in Portland and Calgary. . . . The 8-4-0 Americans are atop the U.S. Division. . . . Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald has a game story right here.

In Spokane, F Ivan Nikolishin scored at 2:59 of OT to give the Everett Silvertips a 3-2 victory over the Chiefs. . . . Chiefs F Keanu Yamamoto scored twice for Spokane, the second one at 16:52 of the third period forcing OT. . . . The Silvertips, at 6-0-3, are the only WHL team not to have lost in regulation time. . . . D Noah Juulsen had two assists for Everett. He has 11 points in nine games. Last season, he finished with 10 points in 59 outings. . . . F Dominic Zwerger had two assists for Spokane. . . . The Chiefs (4-2-3) have points in seven of nine games. . . . Everett has won its last two games in Spokane, the first of those on March 12, after losing 18 in a row. . . . These same teams will play Wednesday in Everett. . . . Chris Derrick of the Spokane Spokesman-Review has a game story right here.

In Kent, Wash., D Ryan Rehill scored with 13.3 seconds left in OT to give the Kamloops Blazers a 5-4 victory over the host Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Seattle F Keegan Kolesar had forced OT with a shorthanded goal at 16:10 of the third period. . . . Rehill has five goals in 130 career regular-season games. . . . Kamloops F Cole Ully set up four goals. . . . The Thunderbirds have played 11 games this season, with five of those going to OT. . . . Kamloops G Connor Ingram stopped 28 shots in earning his first WHL victory. . . .

In Saskatoon, D Blake Orban and F Andrew Koep each scored twice as the Edmonton Oil Kings dumped the Blades, 6-4. . . . The Oil Kings have won four in a row. . . . The Blades had a three-game winning streak snapped. . . . The 7-3-0 Oil Kings are off to their best start in modern franchise history. “I’m shocked by that, to be honest,” Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton said on the team's website. “We’ve had some pretty good team efforts. When we’ve been able to generate offence, it’s come from a variety of sources. With the exception of tonight, we’ve defended pretty hard, and that’s always going to be backbone for us." . . . The Oil Kings broke a 2-2 tie with four straight goals, three in the second period and one early in the third. . . . F Brett Pollock and D Ashton Sautner each had three assists for Edmonton. . . . Edmonton F Cole Benson scored his second shorthanded goal in four games. . . . F Alex Forsberg had two goals for Saskatoon. . . . Edmonton G Patrick Dea stopped 25 shots, including beating F Garrett Armour on a second-period penalty shot with the Oil Kings leading 3-2. . . . Saskatoon was without F Nick Zajac (shoulder) and D Isaac Schacher (wrist), both of whom were injured on Friday. . . . The Blades ran a Pink The Rink promotion that included F Cory Millette wearing the captain's C in memory of his late father, Adrien, who died of cancer on Jan. 30, 2011. . . . Cory’s mother, Kim, took part in the ceremonial pre-game faceoff. Later in the evening, Kim won the 50/50 draw, so went home with $7,765 in her purse. . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has a game story right here.

In Calgary, F Chad Butcher's two goals led the Medine Hat Tigers to a 5-1 victory over the Hitmen. . . . One night earlier, in Calgary, the Hitmen beat the Tigers, 2-1, in OT. . . . Last night, the Tigers, now 9-1-1, enjoyed a 34-18 edge in shots. . . . Butcher, 18, went into this season with eight goals in 101 career regular-season games. This season, he has 10 goals in 11 games. . . . Medicine Hat was 0-6 on the PP; the Hitmen PP unit never had an opportunity. . . .

In Prince Albert, the Raiders snapped a five-game losing skid with a 4-2 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . D Josh Morrissey drew two assists for the Raiders, who outscored the visitors 4-1 in the third period. . . . F Reid Gardiner scored his seventh goal of the season for the Raiders. . . .

In Cranbrook, G Coleman Vollrath stopped 27 shots to help the Victoria Royals to a 4-0 victory over the host Kootenay Ice. . . . F Brandon Magee drew two assists in his first game after serving a 12-game suspension. . . . Vollrath posted his first shutout of the season and the second of his career. . . . The Ice completed a six-game Central Division road swing with four victories. . . . Ice F Jon Martin didn't finish the game, leaving late in the first period after seemng to injure himself while delivering a hit. He was playing his second game after returning from a three-game absence with an undisclosed injury. . . . F Tim Bozon was among the Ice's scratches. He has an undisclosed injury. . . . Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman has a game story right here. . . . Meanwhile, in the NHL, F Sam Reinhart, who is eligible to be returned to the Ice, was scratched by the Buffalo Sabres last night after playing in their first five games. . . .

In Swift Current, the Moose Jaw Warriors blew a 3-0 lead and then beat the Broncos 4-3 when F Jaimen Yakubowski scored with four seconds left in the third period. . . . Yakubowski, who has three goals, had scored the game's first goal and also had an assist. . . . The Warriors led 3-0 at 10:27 of the first period. . . . F Coda Gordon pulled the Broncos even at 17:37 of the third. . . . Moose Jaw F Noah Gregor, who was injured on Friday night, didn't dress for this one. In fact, he has one arm in a sling. . . .

In Lethbridge, G Tyler Brown stopped 29 shots in his first WHL appearance to lead the Regina Pats to a 6-1 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . Brown, from Winnipeg, joined the Pats a couple of weeks ago when Tyler Fuhr left the club for personal reasons. Brown normally backs up Daniel Wapple. . . . F Morgan Klimchuk scored his first goal of the season in his first game for Regina. He had returned from the camp of the NHL's Calgary Flames with a wrist injury. . . . F Connor Gay had a goal and two assists for Regina, which scored the game's last six goals. . . . Lethbridge D Nick Walters played in his 250th regular-season game, while it was No. 200 for F Zane Jones. . . .

In Brandon, F Jayce Hawryluk scored four times to spark the Wheat Kings to a 10-3 victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Hawryluk has nine goals on the season. . . . The Wheat Kings have a promotion with Smitty's, a local restaurant, that gives each fan in attendance a free breakfast if they scored seven goals in a home victory. . . . Brandon fans will be eating well, because the Wheat Kings beat the visiting Swift Current Broncos 8-3 on Friday night. . . . D Reid Duke added a goal and three assists for Brandon. . . . F Chase De Leo had two goals for Portland. . . . G Bolton Pouliot saw his first action with the Winterhawks since joining the team on Friday. He stopped 16 of 20 shots after coming on in relief of Brendan Burke with Brandon leading 6-2 late in the second period. . . . Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun has a game story right here. He points out that the Wheat Kings have scored 15 goals in their last 69 minutes of play. . . . Brandon (8-2-1) opens a western swing in Prince George on Wednesday. If you’re wondering, the Wheat Kings will be in Kelowna on Saturday. . . .

In Vancouver, F Jackson Houck and F Alec Baer each scored three times as the Giants whipped the Prince George Cougars, 9-1. . . . Houck and Baer each has five goals this season. . . . Houck also added two assists. . . . The Giants got a goal and three assists from F Carter Popoff and a goal and two helpes from F Joel Hamilton. . . . Vancouver F Tyler Benson had two assists.


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