Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Secret out on Royals . . . No. 1 draft pick heads for Wild

F James Wright (Vancouver, 2005-10) signed a one-year contract with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, KHL). He is scheduled to join the team today. Last season, with the Winnipeg Jets (NHL), he had two assists in 59 games. . . .
F David Rutherford (Vancouver, Spokane, 2004-08) has been granted his release by Visby/Roma (Sweden, Division 1) for personal reasons. Last season, he had six goals and three assists in 21 games with the Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) and 14 goals and 20 assists in 27 games with the Arizona Sundogs (CHL). . . .
F Jakub Šindel (Brandon, 2004-05) signed a one-year contract with Kaltern/Caldaro (Italy, Serie A). Last season, with Fassa (Italy, Serie A), he had 43 points, including 16 goals, in 40 games. He led Fassa in assists (27) and points.

A year ago, the Victoria Royals were coming off a pedestrian 35-30-7 regular-season, followed by a first-round playoff loss.
My, how things have changed!
Last season, the Royals, under Dave Lowry, the WHL’s coach of the year, went 48-20-4 as they put their first 100-point regular season. They got into the second round of the playoffs, before losing in five games to the Portland Winterhawks.
Today, then, the secret is out.
“The way we are perceived by other teams has changed. We’re not an underdog anymore,” Royals GM Cam Hope, the WHL’s executive of the year, told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist. “Now, other teams look at us as a challenge. We’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore. And that’s a change for this franchise.”
A lot of the prognosticators expect the Royals to be in the Western Conference’s top four, if not the top two.
They went 2-3-2 in the exhibition schedule; a year ago, they went 3-1-1.
Dheensaw’s complete story is right here.
The exhibition season wrapped up on Sunday, with the Prince George Cougars the only team without a regulation-time loss. They finished 3-0-2.
The Kamloops Blazers (4-1-0), Portland Winterhawks (4-1-0) and Brandon Wheat Kings (3-1-0) were next, each with only one setback.
On the other side of the coin, the Kootenay Ice (1-4), Kelowna Rockets (2-4), Lethbridge Hurricanes (2-4) and Seattle Thunderbirds (3-4) each lost four times.
And there are the Moose Jaw Warriors and Victoria, both of whom lost three times in regulation and twice in OT. Moose Jaw wound up 1-3-2, while Victoria was 2-3-2.
Of course, it’s the exhibition season, so don’t be putting any weight on those numbers.
The Everett Silvertips trimmed their roster to 26 on Monday by releasing G Mario Petit, 17, who is from Ile-Des-Chenes, Man. . . . Everett still has three goaltenders on its roster -- veteran Austin Lotz, 19, who was with the Vancouver Canucks’ team at the Young Guns tournament in Penticton, B.C.; Nik Amundrud, who turns 17 on Oct. 20, and Carter Hart, 16. . . . Lotz showed enough that he has been invited to the Canucks' main camp. . . . Everett’s roster now includes 15 forwards and eight defencemen.
F Stelio Mattheos, the first pick in the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft, will play this season for the midget AAA Winnipeg Wild. Mattheos, who is from Winnipeg, was released from training camp by the Brandon Wheat Kings on Monday. At 15, he is too young to play regularly in the WHL. He had two assists in three exhibition games with the Wheat Kings, who have 29 players, including 10 defencemen and 17 forwards, on their roster.
Elliotte Friedman has taken 30 Thoughts with him from Hockey Night in Canada to Sportsnet. The first edition from the new home is right here.
What was the intent of Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson when he allegedly took a switch to his four-year-old son? And should it matter? . . . Amy Davidson of The New Yorker has a terrific read right here.


Two recent studies claim that many more athletes suffer concussions than what the numbers are showing.
Dr. J. Scott Delaney, who works with major teams in Montreal, co-authored two reports that appear in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.
According to a news release based on the reports, “They suggest that concussions continue to be a ‘hidden injury’ in sports, even in the face of significantly increased public awareness.”
More from the news release: “According to Dr. Delaney's research, which involved the surveying of 469 university athletes over a 12-month period, 20 per cent of university athletes believed they had suffered a concussion during this time and almost 80 per cent of these concussed athletes decided not to seek medical attention and chose to continue playing despite believing they had suffered a concussion.”
Dr. Delaney works with the Montreal Alouettes, Montreal Impact and McGill U football and soccer teams. He also is a sports medicine specialist and research director in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the McGill University Health Centre and an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.
“The athletes' most common explanation was that they did not feel their concussion was serious,” said Dr. Delaney. “They believed it would not be dangerous to continue to play or practise. Most athletes know what should happen when they get a concussion – they will be taken out of the game. However, they are not always aware that a concussion, if not recognized and treated, can be extremely dangerous.
“Coaches should be aware that their attitudes and behaviour towards concussed athletes may encourage players to conceal symptoms. Our study found that some athletes did not reveal symptoms because they were afraid it would affect their standing with the team. The response of coaches and medical staff to concussion can have a significant impact on their players' immediate and long-term health."
Dr. Delaney and his colleagues also studied what they call the mechanisms of concussions in football, hockey and soccer.
“Impacts to the side of the head or helmet were the most common location of impact resulting in concussion in all three sports,” according to the news release. “While contact with another player's head or helmet was the most frequent mechanism in football and soccer, contact with another body part or object was the most likely cause of concussion in ice hockey. About half the concussions in soccer were related to attempts to 'head' the ball.”
The complete news release is right here.
Late last week, there was interesting news out of the NFL concerning brain injuries.
Here’s how Ken Belson of The New York Times started his story:
“The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.
“The findings are a result of data prepared by actuaries hired by the league and provided to the United States District Court judge presiding over the settlement between the N.F.L. and 5,000 former players who sued the league, alleging that it had hidden the dangers of concussions from them.”
You will find Belson’s complete story right here, and it is full of interesting and scary numbers.

The Red Deer Rebels have run into a couple of injuries to their import defencemen. Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate has reported that Mario Grman injured a foot while blocking shot during a game on Friday, while Hugo Jansons “has an upper body injury that could keep him out of the lineup for eight to 10 weeks.“ . . . Brandon Wheat Kings F Richard Nejezchleb, 20, suffered an undisclosed injury while with the New York Rangers’ rookie team in Traverse City, Mich. He missed two games but still was hoping to get invited to main camp, which opens Friday. . . . Brandon D Eric Roy (shoulder) was hurt while playing for the Calgary Flames’ rookie team in Penticton, B.C., and sat out his club’s last two games. . . . The Wheat Kings also announced that they have sold 2,312 season tickets, just down from last season’s total of 2,357 when they averaged 3,529 fans per game. . . .
Regan Bartel, the radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, reports on his blog that the WHL has lost two veteran referees. Brett Montsion has moved to Ontario and will work in the OHL, while Pat Smith has retired after 12 seasons in the WHL. Smith, who is from Vancouver, was one of the WHL’s top referees for most of those 12 seasons. . . . Former WHL D Jordan Rowley (Kamloops, Prince Albert, 2006-11) will attend the Edmonton Oilers’ main camp. Rowley’s final WHL season was impacted by a hand injury. From Edmonton, he has spent the last three seasons at the U of Alberta with the Golden Bears. Last season, he had 30 points, including eight goals, in 28 games. . . . The Saskatoon Blades’ roster is at 27, including nine defencemen and 16 forwards, after they released D MacKenzie Dwyer and F Dexter Kuczek on Monday. Dwyer, an 11th-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft, is to join the MJHL’s Selkirk Steelers. Kuczek, who was taken one pick after Dwyer, will play for the MJHL’s Portage Terriers.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Valk working to make most of invitation

Dickson Liong

Curtis Valk is another former member of the Medicine Hat Tigers to with connections to the Vancouver Canucks.
When the Canucks drafted Tigers' forward Hunter Shinkaruk with the 24th selection in the 2013 NHL draft, it seems to have started a trend.
At the time Shinkaruk was selected, Mike Gillis was entering his sixth season as Vancouver's president and general manager. But after the Canucks weren't able to exceed expectations and missed the playoffs, he, head coach John Tortorella and associate coach Mike Sullivan, all were relieved of their duties.
At the same time, the relationship between the Canucks and their fans was clearly damaged.
So, it was time to add someone who had a strong connection with the team and someone whom the Vancouver faithful had trust in to turn the franchise around.
That person is Trevor Linden.
He had  spent three seasons with the Tigers, and another 16 with the Canucks. Throughout his time with Vancouver, he had become one of the most respected sports figures the city has ever had.
While the relationship with the fans may take a while to get back to where it was, filling the presidential position was complete.
The Canucks still needed a general manager, though.
They officially announced the hiring of Jim Benning on May 21. He had spent seven seasons with the Boston Bruins as their assistant general manager.
No, he didn't have any previous history with the Tigers.
What he did have, though, was a connection with Linden. The two played for the Canucks in 1988-89 and 1989-90.
With the vacancies in the Canucks' management filled, they still had to do the same with their coaching staff.
Vancouver named Willie Desjardins as its head coach on June 23.
It had to be patient in order to be granted an interview with the 57-year-old, as he was the head coach of the AHL's Texas Stars, who battled all the way to the Calder Cup final. They went up against the St. John's IceDogs in a best-of-seven series, and defeated them in five games to win the championship.
After Desjardins was named the head coach of the Canucks, he decided to bring Doug Lidster, one of his assistant coaches in Texas, to Vancouver in the same role.
It just happens that, prior to running the same bench in Texas, the duo coached together with the Tigers in 2002-03. Desjardins would spend seven more seasons with the team, while Lidster took a promotion and became the head coach of the OHL's Saginaw Spirit the following season.
With such a strong presence in the Canucks organization that had a track record with Medicine Hat, it didn't come as much of a surprise when they invited Valk to their development camp in July.
He was in his last season with the Tigers in 2013-14 and ended up with 92 points, including 45 goals.
Earlier, Valk dressed for four games with Medicine Hat in Desjardins' last season with the Tigers in 2009-10.
For the 21-year-old, earning an invite from Vancouver meant that he would be on the Canucks' roster for the annual Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C.
This was an opportunity for the Canucks to allow media, and management to see how their prospects compete with the futures of the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.
“You train all summer, you train hard,” Desjardins told the prospects prior to playing the Edmonton Oilers in the tournament opener for both teams on Friday. “You got to be excited about getting to play to see where you are at. Especially as a coach, you always wonder how guys have (improved) over the summer. You can make a difference in your summer training in terms of where you are at.
“So I think for the guys that are here, you can make a name and spot for yourself, and maybe get yourself on a different line or whatever. I encourage you to go hard. A couple things that the organization is about is pretty simple. We're about winning, and we're about playing hard. Winning will take care of itself if you play hard so just focus on playing hard. Good luck at the tournament and I look forward to watching you.”
Valk, a 21-year-old Medicine Hat native, took Desjardins' words to heart.
He scored two goals, as the Canucks lost 4-3 in overtime.
“It was a good game for myself,” Valk stated. “I think there is still room for improvement, though. I think for myself and the team, we got off to a little bit of s slow start and it seemed to cost us in this one.”
Some observers may consider the Young Stars tournament as an opportunity to simply get back into game action.
Not Valk.
"I think it's just a huge opportunity to make an impression,” he said. “I think that my job here in Penticton is to prove that I deserve to play at this level and I am just going to try to do that.”
So far, so good.

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Steve Seibel of Kamloops is in Spain these days. No, he’s not vacationing. A lawyer in real life, he also is an international-calibre basketball referee with an immense amount of experience. Since late August, he has been working at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, the men’s world championship. . . . He was on the floor Tuesday as Lithuania dropped Turkey 73-61 in a quarterfinal matchup and he’ll be back today. Yes, he will work the championship game between Serbia and the United States. . . .

No matter how poorly your week went, it had to be better than the one experienced by Roger Goodell and the NFL. My goodness! Domestic abuse, alleged child abuse and on and on it goes. But all will be forgotten for 10 hours today. . . . In the case of the NFL, you can bet the games can’t get here fast enough. . . . “Two high-school pitchers in Japan went the distance – 50 innings – when it took four days to finally decide a scoreless baseball game,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Apparently they don’t believe in pitch counts: One threw 709 pitches, the other 689.” . . .

Please don’t spit out your coffee as you learn that Floyd Mayweather, who is not a nice man, made US$888,889 per minute as he punched his way to victory on Saturday night. . . . “Had to laugh when I saw this headline – ‘Bucs will be best NFL team in Florida’ – at on (Sept. 5),” writes Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. “Isn’t being the best NFL team in Florida sort of like being the best surfer in Kansas?” . . . Michael Garcia, a FIFA ethics investigator, was charged with looking into alleged improprieties with the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. He has filed his report, so . . . “FIFA officials said they'll read the report,” notes Vancouver comic Torben Rolfsen, “just as soon as they return from their month-long vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Qatar.” . . .

Marvin (Bad News) Barnes, who died this week at 62, might be the captain of the He Coulda Been Great team. Barnes died in Providence, R.I., prompting Providence Journal columnist Bill Reynolds to remember the time Barnes asked if cocaine kills brain cells. Reynolds said he provided the experts’ opinion, to which Brnes responded: “Then I must have been a genius when I started out.” . . . RJ Currie of wonders: “Is someone who promotes cycling a spokesperson?” . . . A question from Cam Hutchinson of the Saskatoon Express: “Why don’t CFL games start 3.5 hours apart instead of three? We often watch duster time in the first game and miss the start of the other.” . . .

Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, explains: “More why there is no satire: Hartselle, Alabama, is the largest dry city in the state. And their mayor, Don Hall, has said he opposes the sale of booze within city limits. Last Friday, Hall was arrested, driving back from a neighboring town, for alleged DUI.” . . . One more from Hough: “Apple’s new $349 smart watch acts as a remote control, a mobile payment device and a pulse monitor. But can it tell time?” . . . Hough, again: “So the NFL may soon be looking for a new toady to do the owners’ bidding at all times. ‘I’m available soon,’ said Bud Selig.” . . . Headline at NFL announces new zero-tolerance policy on videotaped domestic violence. . . .

Here’s Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “A 91-year-old soccer fan left about $636,000 in cash and his house to the Norwegian club FL Fart. I might suggest using $635,000 of that to find a new name.” . . . Wide receiver Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns was suspended for the season due to marijuana use and apparently was planning to work as a car salesman. Notes RJ Currie of “Warning to car buyers: tire and brake questions are fine, but don’t ask him about the suspension.” . . . “Actually,” added Ian Hamilton of the Regina Leader-Post, “Gordon’s ban is expected to be reduced when the NFL’s new drug policy is approved. It would appear Gordon – like many of the cars he has been selling – is going to be recalled.” . . .

If you missed it, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Football, er, Johnny Manziel wants to trademark Johnny Cleveland. Comedy writer Jim Barach says that’s “because a baseball player already has the trademark on the name that reflects where (Manziel) will spend his career, ‘Johnny Bench.’ ” . . . Is there anything on TV that is harder to watch than those TSN promos that feature on-air staff? Especially when they play them over and over and over. . . . Well, OK, the Wendy’s commercials featuring Ms. Ginger are up there, too. . . . And now I notice that the Sportsnet channels are full of staff-filled promos, too. . . . Don’t call me Shirley, but surely the apocalypse must be near. . . .

So, you’re wondering, just how intelligent are baseball players? Here’s Los Angeles Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, in conversation with the Los Angeles Times: “I don’t want to name names, but there were guys I played with that were so stupid that they’re really good because their mind never gets in the way.” . . . Dan Halldorson, a Canadian golfer who had success on the PGA Tour back in the day, lost 20 pounds while instructing for three months in China. As he told Bruce Penton of the Medicine Hat News: “I was using two sticks to eat instead of a shovel.”

(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.)

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Sentencing date set for Blazers' owner . . . Brandon, Lethbridge settle on goaltenders

Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, will be in a Kamloops courtroom on Oct. 10 to be sentenced after being found guilty in August of two environmental-related charges. Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week reports that “the maximum penalties for harmful alteration of a fish habitat are fines of up to $1 million and/or six months in jail.” . . . Petruk’s story is right here.
The Brandon Wheat Kings got down to two goaltenders on Saturday by releasing Josh Dechaine, 16, who will join the midget AAA St. Albert, Alta., Raiders. . . . That leaves Brandon with Jordan Papirny, 18, the Wheat Kings’ rookie of the year last season, and freshman Logan Thompson, 17, on its roster. Papirny, the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 bantam draft, is in camp with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. Thompson, from Calgary, was a sixth-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft. . . . The Wheat Kings close out their exhibition schedule against the Warriors in Moose Jaw today. . . . Bruce Luebke, the long-time radio voice of the Wheat Kings, tweeted Saturday morning: “At Young Stars Tourney, @bdnwheatkings D and @NHLFlames prospect Eric Roy left in 1st period last night with upper body injury.” . . . Later, Luebke pointed out that Roy missed part of the Flames’ camp a year ago “because of an abdominal injury.”
The Lethbridge Hurricanes got their roster down to 28 early on Saturday as they released D Connor Rokosh, F Reid Nemeth and G Jonny Hogue. . . . That leaves the Hurricanes with two goaltenders -- Zac Robidoux, 18, who was acquired from the Medicine Hat Tigers earlier this month, and Stuart Skinner, who turns 16 on Nov. 1. Skinner was the 17th overall selection in the 2013 bantam draft. . . . The Hurricanes gave up a third-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft for Robidoux. If he is on a WHL roster next season, the Tigers also will get a fourth-round pick in 2017. . . . Hogue was an eighth-round pick in 2011, while Nemeth was a ninth-round pick in 2011. . . . Hogue was 2-10-0/5.94/.855 last season. . . . Nemeth had five points, including three goals, in 58 games last season. . . . Rokosh, a fourth-round pick in 2013, will join the Edmonton-South Side Athletic Club midget AAA team.

Former WHL D Bobby Zinkan, 19, has joined the junior A Summerside, P.E.I., Western Capitals. Zinkan, from Calgary, was a fourth-round pick by the Swift Current Broncos in the 2010 bantam draft. He played 102 games with the Broncos, picking up two goals and two assists, before being dealt in May to the Vancouver Giants for F Luca Leone and a sixth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft. The Giants released him last week. Zinkan is likely to make his debut with the Capitals on Friday. . . . Tip of the hat to Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Broncos, for the tweet on Zinkan. . . .
Swift Current was without D Jordan Harris on Saturday night as they beat the Saskatoon Blades 4-2 in a game played in Maple Creek. Harris suffered an undisclosed injury on Friday night. . . . Last night, the Broncos played with only 16 skaters, two under the maximum allowed. . . . Broncos D Dillon Heatherington, 19, suffered an undisclosed injury on Friday night while playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a tournament in Traverse City, Mich. He didn’t practice Saturday, nor did he play in that evening’s 5-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. . . .
Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald reports that F Taylor Vickerman, 18, has been cleared to return to action with the Tri-City Americans. Vickerman, who is from Kennewick, Wash., suffered a knee injury on Feb. 15. He is expected to be available to play in the Americans’ season-opener on Saturday. The Edmonton Oilers have signed F Greg Chase of the Calgary Hitmen to a three-year entry-level contract. He was a seventh-round selection in the 2013 NHL draft.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Another player at home with brain injury . . . To dry scrape, or not to dry scrape

G Leland Irving (Everett, 2003-08) has signed a one-year contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Russia, KHL). He was invited to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s training camp on a tryout basis on Sept. 9. Last season, with Jokerit Helsinki (Finland, Liiga), he was 2.14 and .922 in 55 games. . . .
F Karel Hromas (Everett, 2004-06) has been released by Kadaň (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). Last season, he had one assist in seven games with Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga). He had 11 points, including six goals, in 29 games on loan to Kadaň.


Veteran F Chase Souto, 20, no longer is with the Kamloops Blazers. Souto, who is hoping to play in his fifth season with the Blazers, has returned to his California home as he tries to recover from at least the fourth concussion of his WHL career.
Souto suffered his latest concussion on Feb. 7 and still wasn’t feeling well when he reported to the Blazers training camp in late August.
“He took part in the first two days of training camp,” Blazers head coach Don Hay told Earl Seitz of CFJC-TV in Kamloops. “He came to us and said he wasn’t feeling quite right. Our doctors looked at him and shut him down.
“We’ve given him some time to go home, get well rested, then have the possibility of coming back and joining us at a future date.”
Souto finished last season with 31 points, including 20 goals, in 47 games. He suffered a broken hand during a fight in Moose Jaw on Dec. 15 and didn’t play again until Jan. 17.
His latest concussion came in a game against the visiting Victoria Royals on Feb. 7. He tried to play again, on Feb. 28 in Calgary, but it didn’t work and his season was over.
Now there isn’t any time frame for a return.
“The doctor feels he’s not at 100 per cent right now,” Hay said,
“and wants to give him a little more time to recover.”
Souto incurred two concussions as a 16-year-old freshman, the first coming four games into the season on an open-ice hit in Chilliwack, the second occurring when he was on the receiving end of a heavy check in Cranbrook.
Then, on Sept. 10, 2011, he took an elbow to the head during an exhibition game against Kelowna and that resulted in brain injury No. 3.
Three years ago, after Souto suffered that third brain injury, I talked with him and wrote this piece right here. The interesting part is how he kept playing after the hit and intentionally got into a fight. That way, he got tossed with the automatic game misconduct and was able to buy some time as he tried to determine whether he might be able to keep the brain injury from training Colin Robinson and the coaching staff.
With Souto gone, the Blazers are down to two 20-year-olds -- G Bolton Pouliot and D Brady Gaudet.
Will Souto be back in time to fill that third spot.
“That is open right now,” Hay told Seitz, “but there’s always the possibility it might get filled.”
The Blazers also need Souto’s offence. With him on the roster, they return 106 goals from a team that had the second-poorest offence in the WHL last season.

Sometime during the next week, the WHL will issue a news release covering rule changes for the 2014-15 regular season. Don't expect the trapezoid behind the nets to be expanded or for the area between the hash marks at faceoff circles to be widened, a la the NHL. No doubt the WHL would like to use both rules, but there isn't time to change the paint schemes in all of the arenas before the season opens on Friday. . . . I experienced the dry scrape before overtime for the first time on Friday night. I would hope the WHL dumps that idea before the regular season begins. There are times when there is a real buzz in a building as everyone prepares for OT. But the time it takes to do a dry scrape sucks the atmosphere right out of the building. At least, that was the case last night in Kamloops, where the Blazers scored at 18:53 of the third period to forge a 3-3 tie and force OT with the Prince George Cougars.
Some impressions from that game:
Kamloops F Matt Needham needs to have a lot of games just like that one for the Blazers to have success this season. The Blazers’ captain had the winning goal, on the PP, and two assists. He set up the tying goal by winning a faceoff in the Cougars’ zone. . . . Kamloops D Patrik Maier, a Slovakian freshman, had a goal and an assist and showed some flair. He slammed his gun into its holster after rifling a shot through a screen for a third-period goal. He also showed a sharp stick and some feistiness in front of his net. . . . Blazers F Jake Kryski, 16, was the best player on the ice. The kid has a lot of game for someone that young. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the grind of a WHL schedule. . . . The Cougars had a few veterans who played like it was the last exhibition game, which it was. At this level, coaches shouldn’t have to be yelling at players to skate hard on the way back into their zone. . . . Prince George D Dominic Thom looks like one of those players you hate to play against but love to have on your team. . . . Cougars F Jari Erricson, 20, has some rust after playing only four games last season thanks to a brain injury. . . . The Cougars scratched F Jansen Harkins, meaning he finishes the exhibition season with nine points, including four goals, in three games.
The Medicine Hat Tigers are waiting to find out exactly what is wrong with G Jared Rathjen. Shaun Clouston, the Tigers’ GM and head coach, has told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News that Rathjen, 20, has yet to get medical clearance to play. . . . “In his medical, (Rathjen) had some abnormalities appear on some testing, and so basically until those are investigated and looked into, our doctor has said he can’t participate,” Clouston told McCracken. “So he’s been just kind of waiting. He’s going to see a specialist next week and hopefully he’ll be back to normal.” . . . For now, then, Nick Schneider will be the Tigers’ starting goaltender, with Cole Schafer from the junior B Medicine Hat Cubs backing up. That means Schneider starts tonight against the Red Deer Rebels in Stettler, with Schafter on the bench. . . . McCracken also reports that F Anthony Ast (wrist) and F Chad Labelle (knee) are hobbled.
NHLIt’s hard to believe, but F Tim Bozon is in camp with the Montreal Canadiens. It was only in March when Bozon, then with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, was in the intensive care unit of a Saskatoon hospital, deathly ill with Neisseria meningitis. He has come a long way since then, though, and Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette has the story right here.

The OHL has handed out its first major suspension of the season, hitting F Noah Bushnell of the Sarnia Sting with a 10-game sentence for a headshot -- an elbow to the an opponent’s chin -- during a preseason game. . . . There’s more, including video, right here.

It sounds like Tim Hunter, the first-year head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors, got welcomed to the WHL on Friday night. His club was outshot 42-20 en route to a 6-2 loss to the host Brandon Wheat Kings. Afterwards, Hunter told Katie Brickman of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald: “I never trust the shot clock on the road. I don’t think it was quite as bad as it was but, still, they did outshoot us and outwork us.” . . . Ah, yes, the shot clock on the road in the WHL. There isn‘t a coach in the league who hasn‘t walked the same ground as Hunter. . . .
An interesting note from Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, after the Blades’ 3-2 shootout victory over the visiting Swift Current Broncos last night: “The 1,134 fans who attended Friday’s game got a taste of what the setup will look like at the rink this season. The upper bowl will be curtained off for almost all games in an effort to create a better atmosphere and stronger demand for tickets. The lower bowl holds approximately 6,000 people.” . . . During that game, Nugent-Bowman tweeted: “Broncos D Jordan Harris dumped to the side of the SC net. He skates off the ice with his left shoulder dangling down.” . . .
F Justin Hickman of the Seattle Thunderbirds was to have joined the Winnipeg Jets team at the Young Guns tournament in Penticton, B.C., but those plans were ruined by an undisclosed injury suffered in practice this week. . . . The Toronto Maple Leafs revealed Friday that D Rinat Valiev of the Kootenay Ice won’t participate in their camp because of an undisclosed injury. . . .
F Kristian Ferletak of the Victoria Royals drew a one-game suspension for the goaltender interference major and game misconduct he incurred Thursday against the visiting Vancouver Giants. He won't play tonight in Kelowna against the Rockets. . . . Victoria D Joe Hicketts wasn’t selected in the NHL’s 2014 draft, but is with the Detroit Red Wings’ rookie team in a tournament at Traverse City, Mich. Last night, he scored in OT and also drew an assist as the Red Wings beat the St. Louis Blues, 6-5.

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