Thursday, March 26, 2015

WHL commish has message for Ice fans: 2,200 isn't good enough!

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has delivered a message to hockey fans in Cranbrook, telling them that the Kootenay Ice’s average attendance “is not close to what we need to make that franchise work in the future.”
In a story posted on Between The Lines, a blog operated by Jeff Hollick, the radio voice of the Ice on The Drive102.9 FM, Robison is quoted as saying: “When we’re looking at the Kootenay Ice, we’re in an area where, quite frankly, it’s going to require more support locally in order for that franchise to remain. The numbers we’re currently seeing, 2,200 average attendance, is not close to what we need to make that franchise work in the future.”
Kootenay’s average attendance this season (2,239) was the second-poorest in the 22-team league, ahead of only the Swift Current Broncos (2,162).
Robison attempted to soften the blow a bit when he added:
“We need to assess it as to whether it’s going to be viable beyond next season, that’s not to say we want to move the franchise or feel at this point that that’s part of the plan. That’s not the case at all. We want to see this franchise improve, it’s had a great history of success in the Kootenay market and we want that to continue but, in order for that to happen, we need the attendance to improve significantly.”
In the last five seasons, starting in 2010-11, the Ice’s average attendance has been, in order, 2,501, 2,805, 2,411, 2,227 and 2,239.
On the Ice, Kootenay has been one of the WHL’s more successful franchises. When the Ice opens a first-round series in Calgary on Friday night, it will mark Kootenay’s 17th straight playoff appearance. The Ice won the WHL championship in 2000, 2002 and 2011, and won the Memorial Cup in 2002.
At present, Ice ownership, should it want to move the franchise, doesn’t appear to have a lot of options.
There are three arenas in the Lower Mainland that could house a WHL franchise, but two of them — Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre and the Langley Events Centre — are home to BCHL franchises.
Prospera Centre, of course, was the home of the WHL’s Chilliwack Bruins for five seasons before the franchise moved to Victoria where it is the Royals. In their five seasons in Chilliwack, starting in 2006-07, the Bruins’ average attendance was 4,467, 4,533, 4,073, 3,260 and 3,372.
The third Lower Mainland arena is the 7,000-seat Abbotsford Centre, which was home to the Abbotsford Heat before the Calgary Flames moved their AHL affiliate to Adirondack, N.Y., last summer. In five seasons in Abbotsford, starting in 2009-01, the Heat’s average attendance was 3,897, 3,807, 3,545, 3,778 and 3,007.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Another Sutter on the way . . . Giants looking for head coach . . . Shaw TV to open with Calgary-Kootenay

With apologies to Blackie Sherrod, we're scatter-shooting with another WHL regular season having come and gone:
1. The Brandon Wheat Kings were being built for the 2015-16 season, weren’t they? A trade here and a tweak there, and the Wheat Kings finished first overall this season. Which means Kelly McCrimmon should be the WHL’s executive of the year and the coach of the year. Right?
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2. McCrimmon was the WHL’s exec of the year for 1994-95 and 2009-10. He won CHL honours in 2009-10. He has never been the WHL’s coach of the year.
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3. Whoops! McCrimmon wasn’t even nominated as the Eastern Conference’s coach of the year. That honour went to John Paddock of the Regina Pats.
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4. Of course, Mike Johnston was never honoured as the coach of the year, despite his accomplishments with the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Of course, Johnston never won the executive-of-the-year award either. . . . And look where not winning either award got him.
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5. F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Winterhawks is the most exciting talent this league has seen since . . . F Nino Niedereitter, who also played for Portland.
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6. Bjorkstrand led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118), all in 59 games. Wouldn’t it have been great if the WHL had decided prior to this season to track individual shot attempts and shots on goal? Had that happened, we would know just how much shooting Bjorkstrand did in what has been a truly remarkable season.
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7. How many WHL teams and observers are hoping that the Kelowna Rockets don’t go all the way? Why? Because those people are of the opinion that the deal in which the Rockets landed F Leon Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders, by order of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, stunk to high heaven.
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8. Bruce Hamilton of the Rockets is the Western Conference’s nominee as executive of the year. Some people thought the honour might go to Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers.
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9. In hindsight, one of the best trades, in terms of helping both teams, at the WHL deadline involved Portland and Calgary Hitmen. The Winterhawks sent G Brendan Burke to Calgary, a move that freed up their starting job for Adin Hill, an 18-year-old freshman from Calgary. . . . With Calgary, Burke went 13-3-1, 2.38, .918. . . . Hill finished up 31-11-1, 2.81, .921.
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10. I have yet to figure out what the WHL gets out of having its games on TV, but what I really don’t understand is how the league ends up with games on Shaw TV and Sportsnet at the same time. For example, on Friday, March 20, Shaw was showing Everett at Victoria, while Sportsnet gave us Kelowna at Vancouver.
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Another Sutter has made his way into the WHL. F Riley Sutter is skating with the Everett Silvertips, who selected him in the sixth round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. . . . Riley’s father, Ron, is one of the six Sutter brothers to have played in the NHL. Ron and his twin brother, Rich, both had NHL careers. . . . Riley, who won’t turn 16 until Oct. 25, played this season with the midget AAA Calgary Rangers, putting up 50 points, including 22 goals, in 36 games. . . . Should Riley play in a WHL game at some point, he will become at least the 11th member of the Sutter family to do so.
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WHL on Shaw
Shaw TV will show at least seven first-round WHL playoff games.
Shaw’s coverage will begin with Games 1 and 2 between the Calgary Hitmen and the Kootenay Ice. Those games are to be played in Calgary on Friday and Sunday.
Then it will be over to the series between the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos. Shaw will televise Games 3 and 4 from Swift Current on March 31 and April 1.
Shaw will return to the Calgary-Kootenay series for Game 5, if necessary, which is scheduled for Cranbrook on April 3.
If the series between the Red Deer Rebels and Medicine Hat Tigers goes six games, Shaw will show Game 6 from Red Deer on April 5.
And, finally, if the Hitmen and Ice need seven games to decide their series, Game 7 from Calgary on April 6 will be shown.
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Two games in the first-round series between the Brandon Wheat Kings and Edmonton Oil Kings have had their starting times changed. Games 4 and 5, the latter if necessary, are scheduled for Edmonton on March 31 and April 1. They now will begin at 8 p.m. Mountain, rather than 7 o’clock, as originally was scheduled. . . . That series opens tonight in Brandon.
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The Prince Albert Raiders have signed G Curtis Meger and D Ty Prefontaine. . . . Meger, a list player, is with the Regina Pat Canadians who are playing in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League final. In 23 regular-season appearances, he was 16-5-0, 1.91, .934. . . . Prefontaine, from Saskatoon, was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. He had 36 points, including seven goals, in 36 games with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts.
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They’re working hard to raise money for a new arena in Assiniboia, Sask. With that in mind, they are holding their Sports Celebrity Supper and Auction on April 11, at 5:30 p.m. . . . Former New York Islanders star Clark Gillies, who is Moose Jaw’s favourite son, will be in attendance, as will Bob Bourne, who also is a former Islanders skater. Amber Holland, a world curling silver medallist, also is to be there. . . . Among the items available via silent auction: autographed Olympic Team Canada sweaters from the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber and Ryan Getzlaf; a diamond ring; a northern Saskatchewan fishing trip; a trailer for a golf cart or ATV; a whole lot of autographed memorabilia and a trip for two to New York to watch the Islanders play. The latter trek includes seats in the Islanders’ Alumni box alongside Gillies. . . . Tickets? Email springfever@sasktel.net.
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THE COACHING GAME:

The Vancouver Giants are looking for their fourth head coach in three seasons. The Giants announced yesterday that Claude Noel, who joined the team on Nov. 30, won’t return.
According to the team, the decision was mutual.
The Giants were one of 10 WHL teams to make a coaching change during the last offseason. They also were the last of the 10 to fill the vacancy when they hired Troy Ward.
However, management chose to dump Ward when the team was 9-16-0 and on a road trip into the Central Division. Assistant coach Matt Erhart stepped in and went 1-2-0 before Noel was hired.
Under Noel, the Giants went 17-23-4.
Overall, they finished 27-41-4 and missed the playoffs.
In a revealing conversation with Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province earlier in the week, Noel talked about the future of the Giants organization:
”They have some work to do. They need to decide where they’re going to go and how they’re going to get there. There are some things that the organization is probably going to reassess. You always wonder: you were here, how did you get there? There are reasons you get from one to the other, and how do you get back? They have some young players. Their young players all look bright, but they’re just part of it. That’s just part of the equation. Who are your overages? Where’s your goaltending? Where’s your defence? Who are your forwards? Who’s going to score?”
Ewen’s blog piece is right here.
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“Chalk up a win for former players in their battle with the NHL over hockey-related head trauma,” writes Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated. “A motion filed by the league to dismiss the master complaint brought by the players was dismissed today in United States District Court in Minnesota.” . . . Muir’s piece is right here.
The order denying the motion is right here.
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Adam Proteau of The Hockey News takes a look right here at the above-mentioned lawsuit, the decision and the direction in which this whole thing appears headed.
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Centre Jack Miller, the Michigan Wolverines’ best offensive lineman in 2015, won’t play his senior season and he tells ESPN.com it’s because of the risk of brain injuries.
“I know I've had a few, and it's nice walking away before things could've gotten worse,” Miller told ESPN.com. “And yes, multiple schools have reached out. But I'm ready to walk away from it. My health and happiness is more important than a game.
“I know it's pretty unorthodox for a 21-year-old to see past his own nose. This game requires such a passion to excel, and my flame is burned out. However, I'd be lying if I said that the concussion thing doesn't scare me a little.”
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WHL all-star teams, award nominees bring protest from Everett writer

Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald is a level-headed professional journalist.
However, when he saw the WHL’s all-star teams and award nominees that were released on Wednesday — and there weren’t any Everett Silvertips in sight — well, Mount Patterson erupted.
He writes, in part:
“ . . . if Everett truly didn't have a player worthy of an all-star selection or an award nomination, doesn't that say something about the coaching? In my opinion Kevin Constantine and his staff did a phenomenal job this season. A legitimate grade-A performance. This is an Everett team that, at least based on the opinions of NHL scouts and GMs, wasn't very talented. Yet the Tips won the division, holding off a Portland team gushing in NHL draft picks, and we saw an across-the-board improvement in Everett players over the course of the season. If that combination doesn't point toward great coaching, I don't know what does.
“But was Constantine nominated for Coach of the Year? Nope. He lost out to Kelowna's Dan Lambert, a coach who inherited a championship-caliber team, added two first-round NHL draft picks during the season via trade, and finished with six fewer points than last season.”
You know what? It’s hard to argue with any of that.
BTW, Patterson’s complete rant is right here and it's worth reading if you're a follower of the WHL.
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Here are the WHL all-star teams and award nominees that were announced on Wednesday (x — unanimous choice):

EASTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS

FIRST TEAM

Goal: Tristan Jarry (Delta BC), Edmonton Oil Kings.

Defence: Ivan Provorov (Yaroslavl, Russia), Brandon Wheat Kings; Travis Sanheim (Elkhorn MB), Calgary Hitmen.

Forwards: Trevor Cox (Surrey BC), Medicine Hat Tigers; Tim McGauley (Wilcox SK), Brandon; Brayden Point (Calgary), Moose Jaw Warriors.
SECOND TEAM
Goal: Jordan Papirny (Edmonton), Brandon.
Defence: Rinat Valiev (Nizhnekamsk, Russia), Kootenay Ice; Colby Williams (Regina), Regina Pats.

Forwards: Cole Sanford (Vernon, BC), Medicine Hat; Sam Reinhart (Vancouver), Kootenay; Adam Tambellini (Edmonton), Calgary Hitmen.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS

FIRST TEAM

Goal: Taran Kozun (Nipawin SK), Seattle Thunderbirds.

Defence: Shea Theodore (Aldergrove BC), Seattle; Madison Bowey (Winnipeg), Kelowna Rockets.

Forwards: x-Oliver Bjorkstrand (Herning, Denmark), Portland Winterhawks; Cole Ully (Calgary), Kamloops Blazers; Rourke Chartier (Saskatoon), Kelowna.
SECOND TEAM

Goal: Eric Comrie (Edmonton), Tri-City Americans.
Defence: Joe Hicketts (Kamloops), Victoria Royals; Josh Morrissey (Calgary), Kelowna.
Forwards: Nic Petan (Delta BC), Portland; Nick Merkley (Calgary), Kelowna; Adam Helewka (Burnaby), Spokane Chiefs.
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AWARD FINALISTS
Rookie of the Year (Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy): Eastern Conference — Nolan Patrick (Winnipeg), Brandon; Western Conference — Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane), Spokane.
Goaltender of the Year (Del Wilson Trophy): Eastern Conference — Tristan Jarry (Delta BC), Edmonton Oil Kings; Western Conference — Taran Kozun (Nipawin SK), Seattle.

Defenceman of the Year (Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy): Eastern Conference — Ivan Provorov (Yaroslavl, Russia), Brandon; Western Conference — Shea Theodore (Aldergrove BC), Seattle.
Most Sportsmanlike Player (Brad Hornung Trophy): Eastern Conference — Peter Quenneville (Edmonton), Brandon; Western Conference — Rourke Chartier (Saskatoon), Kelowna.
Scholastic Player of the Year (Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy): Eastern Conference — Nick McBride (Maple Ridge BC), Prince Albert Raiders; Western Conference — Joe Gatenby (Kelowna), Kelowna.
Coach of the Year (Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy): Eastern Conference — John Paddock, Regina Pats; Western Conference — Dan Lambert, Kelowna.

Executive of the Year (Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy): Eastern Conference — Kelly McCrimmon, Brandon; Western Conference — Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna.
Regular-Season Champions (Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy) — Brandon Wheat Kings.
Top Scorer (Bob Clarke Trophy) / Plus-Minus Award: Oliver Bjorkstrand (Herning, Denmark), Portland (118 points, plus-60).
(NOTE: Nominees for the player-of-the-year, humanitarian-of-the-year, top official, and marketing/public relations Award will be announced at a later date.)


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Chiefs to pick first in 2015 bantam draft

The Spokane Chiefs will make the first selection when the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft opens in Calgary on May 7. The Saskatoon Blades won the draft lottery on Wednesday, but the Chiefs hold that pick as part of a January 2013 deal that had F Collin Valcourt join the Blades. . . . This will be the second time in franchise history that the Chiefs have held the first selection. They took D Jared Cowen first overall in 2006. . . . Interestingly, the Blades also won the draft lottery a year ago, but had traded the first pick to the Brandon Wheat Kings, who used it to select F Stelio Mattheos of Winnipeg. . . . Still, the Blades do hold two first-round selections in the 2015 draft. The Blades will pick 12th and 18th, the former having been acquired from the Kamloops Blazers and the latter from the Everett Silvertips. The 12th pick originally belonged to the Kootenay Ice, but went to Kamloops as part of the deal in which F Tim Bozon went to the Ice. The Blades then used it in acquiring F Matt Revel from the Blades. The Everett pick went to Saskatoon in the deal for F Nikita Scherbak.
The first round:
1. Spokane (from Saskatoon); 2. Lethbridge; 3. Vancouver; 4. Moose Jaw (from Kamloops); 5. Prince Albert; 6. Moose Jaw; 7. Tri-City; 8. Prince George; 9. Spokane; 10. Swift Current; 11. Edmonton;
12. Saskatoon (from Kootenay); 13. Victoria; 14. Regina; 15. Seattle; 16. Red Deer; 17. Medicine Hat; 18. Saskatoon (from Everett); 19. Calgary; 20. Prince Albert (from Kelowna); 21. Brandon.
The Portland Winterhawks would have selected 17th, but forfeited that pick as part of the discipline meted out for those unpardonable sins committed in days of yore.
The second and all other rounds will follow the inverse order of the final regular-season standings:
1. Saskatoon; 2. Lethbridge; 3. Vancouver; 4. Kamloops; 5. Tri-City; 6. Prince Albert; 7. Prince George; 8. Moose Jaw; 9. 9. Spokane; 10. Swift Current; 11. Edmonton;
12. Kootenay; 13. Victoria; 14. Regina; 15. Seattle; 16. Red Deer; 17. Portland; 18, Medicine Hat; 19. Everett; 20. Calgary; 21. Kelowna; 22. Brandon. (The order here doesn't include trades, of course. For more on that, visit the blog Small Thoughts at Large where Alan Caldwell has a spreadsheet that tracks all WHL trades that include bantam draft picks.)
From Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: “Lloydminster’s Ty Smith, who captained the Delta Hockey Academy bantam prep team, is considered a front-runner to be selected No. 1 this year.
“The 5-foot-10, 155-pound defenceman had nine goals and 28 points in 16 games.”
 Nugent-Bowman has more on the Blades and the draft right here.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rebels' Musil week-to-week . . . Giants d-man signs with Avalanche . . . WHL draft lottery today








F Andreas Eder (Vancouver, 2013-14) signed a one-year contract with Red Bull Munich (Germany, DEL). This season, with Red Bull Salzburg II (Austria, Molodyozhnaya Liga), he had 21 goals and 25 assists in 54 games. The MHL is the top Russian junior league.
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The Red Deer Rebels will begin the playoffs without F Adam Musil, who suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s final regular-season game, a 3-2 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate reports that Musil will miss a first-round series against the Medicine Hat Tigers. That series opens Saturday in Medicine Hat. “It’s a significant injury and he’ll be week to week with it,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ general manager and head coach, told Meachem. . . . The Rebels have added D Ryan Pouliot, 16, from the major midget Vancouver-North West Giants, and G Trevor Martin, 18, who finished the season with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. . . . Pouliot was an 11th-round selection by the Saskatoon Blades in the 2013 bantam draft. Martin was acquired earlier this season from the Blades.
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Despite not making the playoffs, the Moose Jaw Warriors’ braintrust feels the team made considerable progress this season. . . . Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has more on that story right here.
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The Saskatoon Blades missed the playoffs for a second straight season, but management is convinced that the franchise is on the right track to get back to responsibility. Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix takes a look right here at the pros and cons of the season just past and the one ahead.
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The Prince Albert Raiders are playing the “what if . . .” game now that the season is over and they didn’t make the playoffs. In Prince Albert, that games goes like this: “What if Leon Draisaitl had returned for a third season?” . . . Jeff D’Andrea of paNOW has more right here.
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Myles Fish of the Prince Albert Herald writes of the Raiders that “the questions about the team now centre around its staff. Effectively the entire hockey operations staff with the Raiders have contracts that are set to expire in May.” . . . That story is right here.
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If you aren’t aware, I have been writing stories on hockey coaches for The Coaches Site (thecoachessite.com). With that in mind, I recently had occasion to chat with former SAIT athletic director/hockey coach Ken Babey, who now is the head coach of Canada’s national sledge hockey team. . . . That story is right here.
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D Mason Geertsen of the Vancouver Giants has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Colorado selected Geertsen, 19, in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2013 entry draft. Geertsen, from Rocky Rapids, Alta., had 38 points, 13 of them goals, in 69 games this season. . . . He began his career with the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . In 245 regular-season games, he has 78 points, including 19 goals.
F Jackson Houck of the Giants has signed an amateur tryout (ATO) with the Oklahoma City Barons, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL draft. . . . Houck, who turned 20 on Feb. 27, is from North Vancouver. He had 51 points, including 22 goals, in 65 games this season. In 256 regular-season games, all with Vancouver, he has 189 points, including 87 goals.
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Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports that Blades D Brycen Martin and F Brett Stovin will be finishing this season in the professional ranks. . . . Martin is to report to the Rochester Americans, the Buffalo Sabres’ AHL affiliate. Buffalo selected Martin in the third-round of the 2014 NHL draft. Martin, who has yet to sign with the Sabres, missed the Blades’ last two games with a back injury, so it’s not certain that he will play for the Americans. . . . After being acquired from the Swift Current Broncos, Martin had 22 points, five of them goals, in 30 games with Saskatoon. . . . Stovin is expected to join the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks, whose head coach is former Blades D Richard Matvichuk. This season, Stovin, 20, had 50 points, including 29 goals, in 72 games. He will finish this season with the Mavericks, then return home and decide whether to chase a pro career or go to school. . . . Nugent-Bowman’s story is right here.
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The WHL is scheduled to hold its draft lottery today. During this draft, the order for the first six selections in the 2015 bantam draft will be decided. The six teams that didn’t make the playoffs take part in the draft lottery — Saskatoon, Lethbridge, Vancouver, Kamloops, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw. . . . Keep in mind that Spokane holds Saskatoon’s first-round selection from a January 2013 trade in which the Blades acquired F Collin Valcourt. . . . Also remember that Moose Jaw holds Kamloops’ first-round pick from a January 2013 deal in which the Blazers got D Joel Edmundson. . . . The most a team is able to move up in the draft lottery is two spots. . . . The order of the second round and all subsequent rounds will be the inverse order of the regular-season standings. . . . The bantam draft is scheduled for May 7 in Calgary.
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The Kootenay Ice has signed a new three-year broadcasting deal with The Drive 102.9 FM. The contract runs through 2017-18. . . . It covers all 72 regular-season games and all playoff games, as it has for each of the previous 15 seasons. . . . Jeff Hollick, the play-by-play voice since 1999-2000, will remain in place.
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THE WHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE:

If you came here looking for a WHL playoff schedule, click right here. You will find the complete first-round schedule, with graphics courtesy of Terry Massey of thirteenletter.com.
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THE COACHING GAME:

QMJHLThe QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats have signed head coach Darren Rumble to a two-year contract that runs through 2016-17. Rumble was working on a two-year deal that was to expire after this season. The club had an option on a third season. . . . The Wildcats are 79-51-0-6 in two seasons under Rumble. They open a first-round playoff series at home to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens on Thursday.
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Here’s a look at the 20 WHL head coaches who have more than 300 regular-season victories to their credit:
1. Ken Hodge (Edmonton, Portland), 742
2. Don Hay (Kamloops, Tri-City, Vancouver) 637
3. Don Nachbaur (Seattle, Tri-City, Spokane) 631
4. Lorne Molleken (Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Regina) 603
5. Ernie McLean (Estevan, New Westminster) 548
6. Pat Ginnell (Flin Flon, Victoria, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, New Westminster) 518
7. Jack Shupe (Medicine Hat, Victoria) 466
8. Dean Clark (Calgary, Brandon, Kamloops, Prince George) 465
9. Peter Anholt (Prince Albert, Seattle, Red Deer, Kelowna, Prince Albert) 464
10. Mike Williamson (Portland, Calgary, Tri-City) 460
11. Bob Lowes (Seattle, Brandon, Regina) 453
12. Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon) 417
      Doug Sauter (Calgary, Medicine Hat, Regina, Brandon) 417
14. Marcel Comeau (Calgary, Saskatoon, Tacoma, Kelowna) 411
15. Bryan Maxwell (Medicine Hat, Spokane, Lethbridge) 397
16. Brent Sutter (Red Deer) 367
17. Marc Habscheid (Kelowna, Chilliwack, Victoria, Prince Albert) 365
18. Graham James (Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Calgary) 349
19. Bob Loucks (Lethbridge, Tri-City, Medicine Hat) 340
20. Willie Desjardins (Saskatoon, Medicine Hat) 333
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Lowry, McCrimmon get HC posts . . . Hitmen No. 1 in attendance . . . Tigers' captain suspended








F Karel Hromas (Everett, 2004-06) has signed a one-year extension with Morzine-Avoriaz-Les Gets (France, Ligue Magnus). He had 14 points, including six goals, in 22 games this season. . . .
F Michal Lukáč (Prince George, 2001-02) has signed a one-year-plus-option extension with Kladno (Czech Republic, 1.Liga). He had two goals and seven assists in 49 games this season.
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Dave Lowry, the head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Royals, has been named the head coach of Canada’s national junior team for the 2016 World Junior Championship.
Hockey Canada made the announcement on Monday.
Lowry, 50, was an assistant coach with the Canadian team that won gold at the 2015 WJC in Montreal and Toronto.
Lowry is in his third season as the Royals’ head coach and is the reigning coach of the year. Lowry, who played 19 seasons in the NHL, was the head coach of the Calgary Hitmen in 2008-09.
The national junior team’s assistant coaches are Dominique Ducharme, the head coach of the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads; Martin Raymond, the head coach of the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs; and D.J. Smith, the head coach of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.
The 2016 WJC is scheduled for Helsinki, Finland, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. It will be the 40th anniversary of the IIHF championship.
In preparation, Canada will play teams from Czech Republic and Russia in an exhibition tournament at some point this summer. Those games are expected to be played in Calgary.
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Kelly McCrimmon, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings, will serve as the head coach of the U-18 team that will represent Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.
Hockey Canada made the announcement on Monday. That announcement came two days after the Wheat Kings clinched the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy with the regular season’s best record.
This will be the 54-year-old McCrimmon’s first involvement with Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence. He has been with the Wheat Kings since 1988; he was the head coach from 2004-11 and has been the head coach, again, for the past two seasons.
The U-18 team’s assistant coaches are Sheldon Keefe, the head coach of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and Darren Rumble, the head coach of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats.
Canada has won gold at each of the last eight Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournaments. The tournament is held annually in August in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.
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THE ATTENDANCE REPORT:

Attendance in the WHL was up marginally in 2014-15 over the previous season.
According to numbers compiled by the WHL, the average per-game attendance in the just-completed regular season was 4,525, an increase of 37 over the 2013-14 season. (In 2012-13, the WHL's average attendance was 4,815.)
This season, 12 teams showed an increase, nine teams were down over the previous season and one team, the Medicine Hat Tigers, stayed the same.
The Calgary Hitmen were the runaway leaders, averaging 8,462 fans per game, up 210 over last season. The Portland Winterhawks were No. 2, at 6,980, but that was down 349 from 2013-14.
The Prince George Cougars showed the greatest increase, their average crowd of 2,852 this season an increase of 1,159 over the previous season.
Keep in mind that the WHL’s attendance figures reveal the number of tickets sold and not actual per-game attendance.
There is a terrific look at CHL attendance right here.
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Here is a team-by-team look at WHL attendance, showing the average attendance this season and whether that is up or down from 2013-14:
1. Calgary (8,462, plus-210)
2. Portland (6,980, minus-349)
3. Edmonton (6,787, plus-44)
4. Spokane (5,829, minus-273)
5. Vancouver (5,815, minus-451)
6. Kelowna (5,328, plus-187)
7. Red Deer (5,111, plus-162)
8. Everett (5,089, plus-188)
9. Victoria (4,840, plus-40)
10. Saskatoon (4,563, minus-156)
11. Seattle (4,507, plus-80)
12. Regina (4,317, plus-361)
13. Tri-City (4,019, minus-204)
14. Medicine Hat (4,006, even)
15. Kamloops (3,994, minus-154)
16. Brandon (3,895, plus-366)
17. Moose Jaw (3,312, minus-301)
18. Lethbridge (3,010, minus-79)
19. Prince George (2,852, plus-1,159)
20. Prince Albert (2,431, minus-65)
21. Kootenay (2,239, plus-8)
22. Swift Current (2,162, plus-42) 

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The Medicine Hat Tigers will be without their captain, D Ty Lewington, when they open the playoffs against the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Saturday. Lewington drew a one-game suspension after incurring 32 minutes in penalties at 13:03 of the third period. He was hit with a instigating minor, two fighting majors, a misconduct and a game misconduct. . . .
Ch-ch-ching! Claude Noel, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants, was hit with a $500 fine for comments about officiating after a 4-3 OT loss to the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Friday. . . . If you haven’t seen those comments, they’re right here in a piece by Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province.

D Amil Krupic, 19, won’t be back with the Saskatoon Blades. GM/head coach Bob Woods has confirmed that with Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. . . . Krupic, from Sweden, had 27 points, including five goals, in 69 games. . . . The Blades will be picking second in the 2015 CHL import draft on June 30. . . . Nugent-Bowman takes a look right here at the Blades’ season and where they’re headed.

The Calgary Hitmen hope to have D Jake Bean, 16, back in their lineup when they open the playoffs against the visiting Kootenay Ice on Friday. Bean missed the last nine games of the regular season with a broken wrist. He had 39 points, including five goals, in 51 games. He now holds the franchise record for most points in a season by a freshman defenceman.

Stephen Peat was as hard-nosed a defenceman as the WHL has seen during his time with the Red Deer Rebels, Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen (1995-2000). After his WHL days, he went on to a pro career that took him to the NHL where he played 130 games with the Washington Capitals. His name is back in the news these days, but it has nothing to do with hockey. Langley, B.C., RCMP say he has been in custody since March 19, charged with one count of arson with a disregard for human life, and one count of arson causing damage to property. . . . There is more right here.
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