Thursday, April 23, 2015

Conference finals open tonight . . . Pucklandia rocks . . . Giants' prospect staying home


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THURSDAY’S GAMES:

No Games Scheduled.
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BRANDON VS. CALGARY: These teams are meeting in the playoffs for the sixth time in 11 seasons. . . . They last clashed in the spring of 2012 with the Wheat Kings winning a first-round series in five games. . . . Brandon F Jayce Hawryluk, who sat out the last three games of the second round, is back skating and could play tonight. . . . Brandon D Colton Waltz and F Rihards Bukarts of the Wheat Kings, both of whom went down in Game against Regina, should be available tonight. Both resumed skating on Monday. . . . Brandon F Reid Duke, injured in Game 5 against Regina, isn’t skating yet. . . . The Hitmen were missing F Chase Lang when the second-round ended, while F Adam Tambellini, who leads the post-season points race, and F Connor Rankin had missed time with undisclosed injuries. . . . The Wheat Kings will open with Jordan Papirny in goal; the Hitmen likely will start Mack Shields. . . . Shaw TV will be on the air tonight from Brandon. In fact, it will show the entire Eastern Conference final between the Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen. You’ll have Dan Russell calling the play, with analysis by Bill Wilms. Andy Neal will be the host. . . . F Morgan Klimchuk of the Wheat Kings is from Calgary and his NHL rights belong to the Calgary Flames. Yes, he is looking forward to playing the Hitmen. Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun has more right here. ——
KELOWNA VS. PORTLAND: The Winterhawks are in their fifth straight conference final. One year ago, they took out the Rockets in five games. The Rockets were without F Myles Bell, their leading scorer, for that series. . . . This time, both teams appear healthy. Of course, this being the playoffs, we won’t know for sure until lineups are posted. . . . Dan Lambert, in his first season as Kelowna’s head coach after five seasons as an assistant, has been on the losing side of three series with Portland, including 2011 and 2012. . . . Despite rumbling to the contrary, G Jackson Whistle will open for the Rockets, while the Winterhawks, as expected, will counter with Adin Hill. Lambert actually told Whistle on Saturday that he would be starting Game 1. . . . Whistle has put up three shutouts in these playoffs. . . . The teams haven’t played each other since Nov. 21 and 22, so you can forget about trying to read anything into the season series.
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I made a return appearance on the Pucklandia podcast on Thursday evening. If you’ve got some time, feel free to give it a listen. It’s just two guys sitting around and talking all things WHL. . . . It’s right here.
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The WHL announced its conference nominees for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as its outstanding player this season. It’ll be either F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Portland Winterhawks or F Tim McGauley of the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Bjorkstrand, who turned 20 on April 10, led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118). He was a third-round selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL’s 2013 draft. . . . McGauley, who will be 20 on July 23, finished third in the scoring race with 105 points, including 42 goals. . . . McGauley is eligible for the NHL’s 2015 draft. . . . We’ll find out who wins the award when the WHL holds its awards ceremony in Calgary on May 6.
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The Prince Albert Raiders announced the signing of head coach Marc Habscheid to a four-year contract this week. But they have yet to announce whether general manager Bruno Campese will be back. What’s up with that? . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has that story right here.
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Dennis Coates, a longtime Kamloops lawyer who helped keep junior hockey in Kamloops back in the day, is involved in a lawsuit over a 1926 Model T. . . . Coates was a shareholder when the Junior Oilers/Blazers were community-owned and today is a director with the Kamloops Blazers Sports Society’s sports legacy fund. He received the WHL’s Distinguished Service Award in 2014. . . . Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week has more on the lawsuit right here.
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“Depression and anxiety are the worst kept secrets in professional sports,” writes Hayley Wickenheiser, perhaps the greatest female hockey player in history, at The Players’ Tribune. “In every locker room across the NHL, there are guys who are struggling with the fear of everything — the fear of a bad shift, the fear of pissing off their coach, the fear of getting traded or cut and letting down their family. What also happens in every locker room is that there are teammates, trainers and staff who stay silent too long when a guy struggles.” . . . Wickenheiser was friends with the late Steve Montador and she pours out her heart in this piece right here. . . . At one point, she writes: “We need to do more. The entire hockey community, including league officials, teammates, coaches, trainers, the NHLPA, and the hundreds of former players out there, need to come together and solidify a comprehensive support system for those struggling with depression, anxiety and the aimlessness that comes with finding a second life after hockey. Not in the future. Not next season. Right now.” . . . She’s right!
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F Owen Hardy has decided to play next season with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers. Hardy, who is from Nanaimo, was selected by the Vancouver Giants with the 42nd overall pick in the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. . . . "I knew the coach (Mike Vandekamp) and I liked him very much," Hardy told Scott McKenzie of the Nanaimo Daily News. "I didn't really know who the Giants coach was going to be, so it just seemed like the safer place to go, and it seemed like a very good place to go just from practicing and being with the team all year.” . . . Hardy played this season with Nanaimo’s major midget team. . . . McKenzie’s story is right here.
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From the Prince Albert Daily Herald: “Former Prince Albert Raiders goalie Travis Laycock has been honoured for saving two lives. Brad Wall presented Laycock and seven others with the Saskatchewan Premier’s Commendation Award in Regina on Tuesday to honour the individuals’ various courageous actions. Last July, Laycock jumped into a slough near Bruno to save a couple whose car had gone into the water. Laycock, 43, was a goalie with the Raiders from 1989-92.”
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The SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings held their AGM on Wednesday. Earlier this season, they had announced that they were close to $200,000 in debut and in danger of not answering the bell for 2015-16. At the AGM, it was revealed that the debut has been reduced to about $70,000. Ticket sales increased by about $80,000 after the team went public with its problems in January.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Papirny proving himself . . . Kompon talks 'Hawks-Rockets . . . A taco cannon? Seriously?








F Michal Řepík (Vancouver, 2005-08) signed a two-year contract with Liberec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, with Pelicans Lahti (Finland, Liiga), he had nine goals and 22 assists in 49 games. He also played four games with Zug (Switzerland, NL A), picking up two goals and an assist.
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WEDNESDAY’S GAMES:

No Games Scheduled.




Steve Montador was, as Daniel Carcillo puts it, his “best friend in hockey.” On Feb. 15, Montador, 35, was found dead in his home. He had battled addictions and post-concussion syndrome, the latter having forced a premature end to his hockey career. . . . On Wednesday, a piece written by Carcillo, who plays for the Chicago Blackhawks, was posted at The Players’ Tribune. . . . This is powerful stuff, especially the video at the end, and it's all right here.
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In the same vein, here is the link to a story that appeared on CKPG-TV in Prince George on Tuesday. It features Cooper Holick, a young man who, in a bid to help other young people, has opened up his mental health issues. He did it with the full support of his mother, Janet, and father, Mark, who is the head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars.
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G Jordan Papirny of the Brandon Wheat Kings is eager to get the Eastern Conference final started. That series opens Friday night with the Calgary Hitmen in Brandon. Papirny goes into the final on quite a roll, too. As Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun reports: “Papirny hasn’t given up a goal after the second intermission in any of the Wheat Kings’ last six games and he has a remarkable .964 save percentage in third periods and overtime sessions in this year’s post-season.” . . . That story is right here.
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The Calgary Hitmen have played 12 playoff games this spring, and six of them have gone to overtime. Calgary won four of those games, so really doesn’t mind working overtime. Laurence Heinen covers that angle in this story for the Calgary Herald.
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Jamie Kompon is in his first season as the GM and head coach of the Portland Winterhawks. Really, they haven’t missed a beat as they are into the Western Conference final for the fifth straight season. They’ll open Friday against the host Kelowna Rockets. . . . In advance of the series, Kompon offered up some thoughts for Steve Brandon of the Portland Tribune.
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In Kelowna, the Rockets remember what happened a year ago when they met up with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Conference final. Yes, Portland won. In five games. These are different teams, of course, especially on their back ends, and the Rockets are hoping that gives them an edge. Warren Henderson of Kelowna’s Capital News has that story right here.
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The Everett Silvertips finished atop the U.S. Division, but lost a second-round series in five games to the Portland Winterhawks, who had finished three points behind them. So how do the Silvertips look at their season? “I thought it was a great season,” head coach Kevin Constantine told Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald. . . . That story is right here.
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The WHL office has looked after a couple of items left over from the second round of the playoffs. . . . F Jared Dmytriw of the Victoria Royals was given a one-game suspension after he incurred a boarding major and game misconduct in Kelowna on Friday. He’ll sit out the first game of the 2015-16 season. . . . D Connor Hobbs of the Regina Pats drew a one-game suspension for a kneeing major and game misconduct he took on April 15 against visiting Brandon. Hobbs served the penalty when he missed Game 5 of that series on Friday.
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So . . . which WHL building will be the first to be home to a taco cannon? Seriously! There will be one at University of Nebraska Omaha games next season. . . . There’s more right here.
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THE COACHING GAME:

John Paddock isn’t going anywhere. Paddock, the Pats’ senior vice-president of hockey operations and head coach, has told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post that he has no plans to leave. “I hope this is my last job in hockey, but I hope it's not done anytime soon," Paddock said. "I didn't come here to use this to springboard anywhere. It would be hard to envision going anywhere else right now.” . . . Harder’s story is right here.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cooper Holick tells his story . . . Habscheid gets four years from Raiders . . . Great day for Thoma








F Ty Morris (Swift Current, Vancouver, Red Deer, 2003-05) signed a one-year contract with Peiting (Germany, Oberliga). This season, with Landshut (Germany, DEL2), he had 13 goals and 16 assists in 45 games. he is a dual Dual Canadian-German citizen.
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TUESDAY’S GAMES:

No Games Scheduled.
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KELOWNA VS. PORTLAND: The Winterhawks are scheduled to leave for Kelowna this morning. . . . The Winterhawks are the first team to reach five straight conference finals in the WHL’s bantam draft era. . . . Another note from a Winterhawks’ news release: “The five straight appearances in the conference final tie the Winterhawks for the second-longest streak in WHL history, a feat also accomplished by the Medicine Hat Tigers and New Westminster Bruins. The Kamloops Blazers hold the record with 13 straight from 1984-96.” . . . Each team has a first-year head coach. Kelowna’s Dan Lambert moved up from assistant coach when Ryan Huska left for the Calgary Flames’ organization as head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Flames. In Portland, Jamie Kompon, who had been an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks, took over from Mike Johnston, who now is head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

BRANDON VS. CALGARY: These teams last met in the playoffs in the spring of 2012, with the Wheat Kings winning the first-round series in five games. They took Game 5 in OT in a game that was played at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. . . . They last met in the Eastern Conference final in 2010. The Hitmen won that series and went on to earn the WHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup, which was played in Brandon that year. The Wheat Kings beat Calgary in the semifinal game at the Memorial Cup and then lost to the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires in the final. . . . The Wheat Kings had F Ty Lewis, a third-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft, at practice on Tuesday, and he will be there again today. Lewis started the season with the Wheat Kings, but a broken arm limited him to two games. He spent the latter half of the season with the midget AAA Wheat Kings, who have been done since March 28.
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“The hockey world can be a tough place for a young player, with intense pressure and high expectations,” reads the start of a story on the website of Prince George TV station CKPG. “Cooper Holick walked away from the game at the age of 18. Now, he and his dad are trying to reduce the stigma around young athletes living with mental illness.” . . . Cooper’s father, Mark, is the head coach of the Prince George Cougars. . . . Their story is right here.
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The Prince Albert Raiders have signed head coach Marc Habscheid to a four-year contract. They also picked up one-year options on Dale Derkatch, their director of player personnel, and Duane Bartley, the athletic therapist. . . . Habscheid, 52, replaced the fired Cory Clouston on Nov. 1, and went 24-28-4. . . . The Raiders have yet to re-sign associate coach Dave Manson or assistant coach Kelly Guard. The team holds one-year options on each of those men. . . . The club also holds an option on general manager Bruno Campese. . . . Jeff D’Andrea of PAnow has more right here.
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“The state Senate and House each voted to approve a bill that would clarify that Western Hockey League players are amateur athletes and not employees who should be paid minimum wage and fall under state child labor laws,” reports Steve Hunter of the Kent, Wash., Reporter. . . . Hunter’s complete story is right here.
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Jim Swanson, a former sports editor of the Prince George Citizen, is part of the new ownership group with the West Coast Baseball League’s Victoria HarbourCats. . . . Ownership has been transferred by Bhootan LLC to Shwing Batter Investment Group, which features Swanson, his brother, Ken, Richard Harder and Jim Wilson. The move is subject to approval by the WCL’s board. . . . Ken Swanson of Burnaby is the new group’s president, with Wilson, who is involved at the ownership level with the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies and VIJHL’s Peninsula Panthers, as vice-president (business), Harder, from New Westminster, as treasurer and Jim Swanson general manager and vice-president (baseball). . . . Jim Swanson was the team’s general manager in 2014 and the HarbourCats led the WCL in attendance, averaging 1,576 fans per game. . . . The HarbourCats open the exhibition season on May 31; the regular-season home-opener is June 5.
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Here’s sports columnist Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post:
“NHL and WHL referees habitually swallow their whistles in the latter stages of playoff games. The ‘let 'em play’ mindset is supposedly employed because referees are reluctant to influence the outcome. Well, guess what? By not calling obvious penalties, they are influencing the outcome.
“A second-round WHL playoff series between the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings showed that officials are far too reluctant to call penalties, period. Too much clutching and grabbing was ignored when the Pats and Wheat Kings collided. And whatever happened to an interference penalty? Or a major penalty for a careless hit near the boards?”
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These are interesting times for the Medicine Hat Minor Hockey Association, where the president, association manager and secretary have resigned. Kevin MacKay, who resigned after just one season as manager, told Sean Rooney of the Medicine Hat News that “they are quite a few years behind the times.” . . . Rooney’s piece is right here.
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In the QMJHL, the Val d’Or Foreurs, who lost the first three games of the series, beat the host Baie-Comeau Drakkar 4-3 in OT to win a second-round series, 4-3. . . . There wasn’t a post-game handshake line as a bit of a tussle broke out just prior to it and the Drakkar left the ice. . . . In the other series, the Moncton Wildcats beat the Halifax Mooseheads 6-3 in Game 7. . . . The Foreurs will meet the Rimouski Oceanic in one semifinal, with the Wildcats and Quebec Remparts in the other one.
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Two forwards and a defenceman from the Victoria Royals have moved up to the professional ranks. F Austin Carroll has joined the NHL’s Calgary Flames as one of the black aces, while F Greg Chase has been assigned by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers to the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons. D Joe Hicketts, who signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings, has joined the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
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Sergei Mikhalyov, the head coach of the Russian team that finished second at the World Junior Championship in 2006, has been killed in a car accident. Mikhalyov, 67, had coached the KHL’s Salavat Yulayev Ufa. He had just attended the funeral of former Traktor Chelyabinsk coach Valery Belousov when the accident occurred. . . . The Moscow Times has more right here.
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THE COACHING GAME:

It’s doubtful that anyone had a better day than Bryce Thoma, the general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings. Thoma and his wife Jenn welcomed a son, Smith Matthew, to our world on Tuesday morning. He is a brother to Collins Helene, 3, who is thrilled with the new arrival. . . . Later, the Red Wings announced that they have signed Thoma, 32, to a two-year contract. Thoma has been the Red Wings’ head coach for two seasons and the GM for one. They made the playoffs this season for the first time since 2011-12. They won a first-round series with the Humboldt Broncos, then were ousted by the eventual-champion Melfort Mustangs. . . . Thoma, a defenceman, played four seasons (1999-2003) with the Red Deer Rebels. He also spent five seasons on their coaching staff.
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Head coach Jarrod Skalde and the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals “have mutually agreed to part ways,” according to a news release from the team. The Admirals, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, are relocating to San Diego before another season arrives. . . . Skalde, 44, went 27-39-6-4 in his first season as an AHL head coach. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the Admirals before taking over as head coach.
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Rich Pilon, who played in the NHL and WHL, is the new head coach of the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers. He had been an assistant coach with the Blazers’ cross-town rivals, the Contacts. . . . Pilon takes over from Curtis Leschyshyn, who decided to step down. Scott Scissons, Leschyshyn’s assistant coach, also has left the Blazers. . . . Pilon’s assistant coaches will be Bobby Braybrook and Dean Seymour. . . . Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has the story right here.
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Monday, April 20, 2015

A good book . . . A baseball rant, and one in hockey . . . Coach wins title, gets sacked

BOOK REVIEW:

In recent weeks, my reading habits became dictated by author Ken Follett — a couple of his epics and a few shorter ones. I also discovered C.J. Box, who writes fiction about the life and times of game warden Joe Pickett and his Wyoming-based family.
In between, I found time to read a book that I had been saving since Christmas, the same way you
save the meat around the pork chop’s bone for the end of the meal.
That book is Hockey Confidential, which was written by Bob McKenzie, pro hockey’s original insider. It is subtitled Inside Stories from People Inside the Game, which is exactly what it is.
As the Internet age and advertising-dictated deadlines came to have an impact on the daily newspaper business and the way we wrote game stories, I would tell reporters who worked with me to write about people.
And that’s exactly what McKenzie has done in Hockey Confidential, a terrific, fun read.
This isn’t a book full of opinion or suggestions to improve the game of hockey or anything else of that ilk. Rather, it’s a book about people.
There are 11 chapters and each is a story onto itself.
In the chapter titled Recalculating, you may think that you are going to read about Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban and his hockey-playing brothers, Malcolm and Jordan. Instead, it’s almost completely about their remarkable father, Karl.
A couple of chapters later, you are into The Road to Redemption, and it’s another remarkable story. As a player, Sheldon Keefe once refused to shake hands with OHL commissioner David Branch. Today, Keefe is the head coach of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. McKenzie tells Keefe’s story, warts and all.
Hockey Confidential also is ample evidence that if taken out of their natural environment hockey people are capable of loosening up and telling tales. McKenzie seems to have chatted with many of his subjects in coffee shops and the results are impressive.
Give this a read. You won’t be disappointed.
In fact, here’s hoping that McKenzie comes up with one of these in time for every Christmas.
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MONDAY’S GAMES:

No Games Scheduled.

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With no games scheduled until Friday, things were quiet on the WHL front on Monday.
In Brandon, two of the Wheat Kings’ four injured players were back on the ice, although one didn’t take part in the complete practice. Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun reports: “D Colton Waltz and RW Rihards Bukarts, who were both injured in Game 2 of the Wheat Kings’ second-round victory over the Regina Pats, returned to practice on Monday, although Waltz only took part in the first half of the session. RW Jayce Hawryluk and RW Reid Duke, who were also hurt in the series, did not skate with their teammates.”
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D Ben Betker of the Everett Silvertips will finish his season with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons. He was a sixth-round selection by the parent Edmonton Oilers in the NHL’s 2013 NHL draft. . . . Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald had that tidbit and more — Will F Nikita Scherbak be back with Everett? What about F Ivan Nikolishin? — in a notebook that is right here. . . . Patterson also touches on what will be one of the hottest stories around the WHL this summer — what will Auston Matthews do?
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Baseball, it seems, provides us with a good rant every once in a while. You’ve seen the one with then-Kansas City Royals manager Hal McRae, I’m sure, and you may have heard or seen then-Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda go off after he was asked about a three-run homer performance by Dave Kingman. If you haven’t seen either, I have a feeling they’re available on YouTube.
Yesterday, it was Bryan Price’s turn. Price is the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and it seems that he has forgotten, if he ever was aware, that it isn’t the job of the media to sell tickets.
C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer has the story, including an excerpt from the rant, right here. He reports that the five-minute 34-second rant includes “77 uses of the ‘F’ word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine).”
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
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Later in the evening came word that Jim Rutherford, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, had directed an expletive or three at Rob Rossi, a columnist with Trib Total Media. . . . Rossi, who has been critical of Rutherford’s moves for a lot of this season, responded with a column that is right here.
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THE COACHING GAME:
Over in Great Britain, the Sheffield Steelers won the Elite League championship under head coach Gerad Adams (Regina, Kelowna, 1995-99). So how did they reward him? They sacked him. . . . The Steelers said in a statement: “The decision comes after an end of season review by club ownership and management on the direction the Steelers need to take moving forward.” . . . Adams told Bob Westerdale of the Sheffield Star that he is “frustrated and disappointed.” Adams added: “I delivered a title that the organization had been after some time, so I leave with my head held high. I am very proud of what I achieved and will conduct myself now on a professional basis.” . . . Westerdale’s story is right here.
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Winterhawks advance, again . . . Conference finals primer . . . Bromley looks at Ice

SUNDAY’S GAME:

In Everett, F Nic Petan had a goal and two assists to lead the Portland Winterhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Silvertips and a fifth straight berth in the Western Conference final. . . . The Winterhawks won the series, 4-1, and will open the Western Conference final in Kelowna against the Rockets on Friday. . . . Each of the WHL’s four second-round series was over in five games. . . . Petan, who has points in each of his side’s 11 playoff games, scored his seventh goal, at 6:43 of the first period, on a PP. He’s got 19 points in these playoffs. . . . Everett D Jordan Wharrie tied it with his first goal at 12:10. . . . Portland F Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the game’s next two goals, at 3:19 and 8:40 of the second period. . . . Everett D Cole MacDonald got his guys to within one at 18:53 of the second. . . . Bjorkstrand now leads all playoff scorers with 10 goals. . . . F Nikita Scherbak had two assists for the Silvertips. . . . Portland G Adin Hill stopped 31 shots, three more than Everett’s Carter Hart. . . . Portland was 1-for-1 on the PP; Everett as 0-for-2. . . . Bjorkstrand led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118). In the playoffs, he has 18 points, three off the WHL lead. In his WHL career, combining regular season and playoffs, he has 360 points, including 178 goals, in 246 games. . . . In the playoffs alone, Bjorkstrand has 70 points, 34 of them goals, in 53 games. . . . F Spencer Gerth made his WHL debut with Everett. Gerth, who will turn 17 on May 15, played this season with the junior B Golden Rockets of the Kootenay International Junior League. . . . Everett D Noah Juulsen took the pregame warmup, but left early and was scratched. . . . Everett also scratched D Tristen Pfeifer, F Dawson Leedahl and F Jake Mykitiuk. . . . Attendance was 3,671. . . . Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald has a game story right here.
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THE STAGE IS SET . . .

The WHL’s Eastern Conference final will feature the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Calgary Hitmen, with the Kelowna Rockets meeting the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Conference final. . . . Some notes on both:

BRANDON (53-11-8, 114 pts.) vs. CALGARY (45-22-5, 95): They will open in Brandon with games Friday and Saturday nights. Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for Calgary on Tuesday, April 28, and Wednesday, April 29. . . . Dates for the remainder of the series, if necessary, have yet to be announced. . . . These teams last met in the playoffs in the spring of 2012 when Brandon won a first-round series in five games. . . . The Wheat Kings were 3-1-0 in the season series; the Hitmen were 1-2-1. . . . Last season, the Hitmen swept the series, 4-0-0. . . . They last met on Jan. 11, one day after the WHL trade deadline. . . . Calgary won the series opener, 6-2, on Oct. 12. Brandon won the last three — 2-1, in a shootout, 7-4 and 5-4. . . . In the regular season, Brandon G Jordan Papirny was 3-1-0, 3.43, .887 against Calgary. . . . G Mack Shields of the Hitmen was 1-2-0, 2.67, .913 against Brandon. . . . G Brendan Burke has yet to face Brandon while wearing a Calgary uniform. . . . The Wheat Kings’ roster includes three players from Calgary — F Reid Duke, F Morgan Klimchuk and F Braylon Shmyr. . . . Calgary F Jordy Stallard is from Brandon; in fact, he played for the midget AAA Wheat Kings. . . . Calgary’s Sanheim twins — D Travis and F Taylor — are from Elkhorn, Man., which is 105 km west of Brandon. They grew up watching the Wheat Kings. . . . The Wheat Kings have had injury problems through the first two rounds. On Friday, when they finished off the Regina Pats, Brandon was missing F Rihards Bukarts, F Jayce Hawryluk and D Colton Waltz, all of whom are regulars. . . . Calgary F Connor Rankin missed the final game of its series with Medicine Hat. F Adam Tambellini leads the playoff scoring race with 19 points. He missed Game 4 against the Tigers, but was back for Game 5.
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KELOWNA (53-13-6, 112) vs. PORTLAND (43-23-6, 92): Portland is making its fourth straight appearance in the conference final. Last season, the Winterhawks took out the Rockets in five games. . . . In the spring of 2012, Portland took out Kelowna 4-0 in a first-round series. The previous year, Portland beat Kelowna 4-2 in a second-round affair. . . . They’ll play Friday and Saturday in Kelowna, then moved to Portland for games on Tuesday, April 28, and Wednesday, April 29, in the Moda Center, the home of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. . . . This season, Portland won the season series, 3-1-0; the Rockets were 1-1-2. . . . How much can that mean? Last season, the Rockets were 4-0-0 in the season series and look what happened when they met the Winterhawks in the conference final. . . . Of course, considering that these teams haven’t met since Nov. 22, we should likely forget the season series. They played Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 in Portland — Kelowna won, 5-0; Portland won 3-2, in OT — and Nov. 21 and 22 in Kelowna — Portland won both 4-3, the first one in OT. . . . Rockets F Rourke Chartier scored five times in the four games; no other Kelowna skater had more than one goal. . . . Portland sniper Oliver Bjorsktrand had two goals in the four games. . . . The Rockets have carried three goaltenders, with Jackson Whistle presumed to be the starter. However, he left after one period of their series-clinching victory over visiting Victoria on Friday night. Michael Herringer came on to play the last two periods and earn the victory. Also available is Jake Morrissey, the younger brother of D Josh Morrissey. . . . Josh has fought injury problems for the last while, but has nine points in three playoff games. He had five points in Game 5 against Victoria. . . . Kelowna F Leon Draisaitl had 15 points, including 11 assists, in nine games. . . . Portland’s roster includes only three players form B.C. — F Nic Petan of Delta, F Mitch Walter of South Delta and D Brendan De Jong of Victoria. . . . The Winterhawks have been mostly healthy through the playoffs. They are missing freshman D Nick Heid, who last played on Jan. 9.

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Mike Eaves, the head coach of the U of Wisconsin Badgers, is trying to put things back together after perhaps the worst season in school history. The Badgers went 4-26-5, experiencing the most losses ever and the fewest victories in a season since the 1933-34 team posted three.
Earlier this month, Eaves fired two assistant coaches. He also learned that F Morgan Zulinick, one of the Badgers’ top players, has decided not to return. He will stay at home in Kamloops where he has a three-year-old son.
These days, Eaves is busy recruiting and two of his top targets are WHL draft picks.
Here’s Andy Baggot, in the Wisconsin State Journal:
“It’s believed Eaves traveled to British Columbia this weekend to touch base with two major targets: Penticton teammates and close friends Tyson Jost, a winger, and Dante Fabbro, a defenceman. Both are projected as top-10 NHL draft picks in 2016.”
The Everett Silvertips selected Jost with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft. The Seattle Thunderbirds took Fabbro with the next pick.
The 6-foot-0, 194-pound Jost, from Leduc, Alta., turned 17 on March 14. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Fabbro, from Whistler, B.C., will turn 17 on June 20.
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“Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll will probably be able to negotiate a ‘slap on the wrist’ after being arrested and charged in Las Vegas on Friday for possession of cocaine and another illegal recreational drug, says a former state prosecutor.” That is according to a report by Rick Westhead, TSN’s senior correspondent. Stoll played in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice. . . . Westhead’s report is right here.
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With the NHL playoffs in high gear and everyone hating on everyone else, Mark Spector of Sportsnet has taken a not-too-serious look at the fine art of lying with the Stanley Cup on the line. . . . It sounds like if you ain’t lyin’, you ain’t tryin’. . . . That piece is right here.
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Jeff Bromley, who has followed the Kootenay Ice for more than a few seasons, has a few thoughts right here, as he looks to next season and tries to shed some light on the departure of head coach Ryan McGill. . . .
The ECHL’s Ontario Reign has signed G Coleman Vollrath of the Victoria Royals to an amateur tryout agreement. Vollrath, who turned 20 on Jan. 19, went 28-15-4, 2.99, .905 with the Royals this season. From Calgary, Vollrath is expected to dress tonight for Game 3 of the Reign’s Pacific Division series against the host Colorado Eagles. The best-of-seven series is 1-1.
The Vincent Massey Vikings won the Westman High School Hockey League title for the first time in 20 years. Former Brandon Wheat Kings F Graham Garden is the Vikings’ head coach. . . . Robin Wark of the Westman Journal has more right here. . . .
F Jordan Thomas, an 18-year-old from Edmonton, scored at 1:38 of OT to give the visiting Spruce Grove Saints a 2-1 victory over the Brooks Bandits and their second straight AJHL championship. Next up for the Saints is the Western Canada Cup in Fort McMurray, Alta.
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His nickname is Mule because he’s big and strong. But a concussion suffered on Jan. 6 brought Detroit Red Wings F Johan Franzen to his knees and his hockey-playing future is in doubt. But all he really wants is to be able to play with his children, again. . . . Ansar Khan of mlive.com has that story right here.
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