Fires: No relief in sight … Tigers, T-Birds confirm Kruger, McLean gone … Some draft rankings

The fire season? All you need to know is that the provincial government declared a state of emergency on July 7. On Friday, that state of emergency was extended through Sept. 1.

After a clear and warm Friday, the winds came up late in the afternoon and smoke rolled back into Kamloops in the early evening hours.

The weekend forecast is for gusting winds and thunderstorms, so the firefighters are anticipating a lot of activity on the front lines.

Stay safe!

If you want some numbers . . . As of Friday at 1 p.m., the province had lost 902,000 hectares to fires. The number is likely to rise with better mapping, too. . . . There were 145 fires burning, with seven of those listed as new. . . . The B.C. Wildfire Service’s costs are now at $329.7 million. . . . There were 4,403 people out of their homes, with more than 20,000 others living under evacuation alerts. . . . The Hanceville-Riske Lake fire is at 218,000 hectares, while the Elephant Hill blaze stayed at 168,000 ha. . . . A windy weekend will change those numbers in a big way, though.

On Friday night, the Cariboo Regional District issued an evacuation order for the Tatla Lake and Kleena Kleene areas, both of which are west of Williams Lake. Tatla Lake had been under an evacuation alert since July 14; Kleena Kleene since Aug. 4.


G Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw, 2007-12) has signed a one-year contract with Dinamo Minsk (Belarus, KHL). Last season, he was pointless in five games with the Winnipeg Jets (NHL), and had 13 goals and 11 assists in 58 games with the Manitoba Moose (AHL). . . .

D Jordan Rowley (Kamloops, Prince Albert, 2005-11) signed a one-year contract with the Pelicans Lahti (Finland, Liiga). Last season, he had four goals and 15 assists in 51 games with Vita Hästen Norrköping (Sweden, Allsvenskan). Rowley’s contract with Pelicans includes a tryout period. If the tryout period is a success, the contract converts to a one-year contract.


The Calgary Flames and Medicine Hat Tigers have made official speculation that was mentioned here on Aug. 12. Darren Kruger, the Tigers’ senior director of player development, has joined the Flames as an amateur scout who will spend most of his time in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. . . . Kruger, 48, had been with the Tigers since 2006, first as an assistant coach, then as associate coach, before stepping into his latest role prior to the 2014-15 season. . . . Kruger took over as senior director of player development after Brad McEwen left the Tigers to join the Flames’ scouting staff. McEwen left the Flames earlier this summer and now is Hockey Canada’s head scout.


Meanwhile, the Seattle Thunderbirds announced Friday that Dan McLean, their director of scouting, has joined the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins as an amateur scout. . . . That was reported here earlier this week. . . . McLean had been with the Thunderbirds for 21 seasons, the last two as director of scouting. . . . With the Penguins, McLean will be responsible for scouting the WHL. . . . Speculation is that the Thunderbirds won’t replace McLean, at least not now, instead choosing to spread his workload around one or two people already in their organization.


If you’re into rankings, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has issued his first look at potential first-round selections for the NHL’s 2018 draft. With the Vegas Golden Knights now in the NHL, the first round will comprise 31 selections, so Kennedy presents his first Top 31. A word of warning for WHL fans, though — your league has only two players on Kennedy’s list. D Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs is at No. 9, with D Jett Woo of the Moose Jaw Warriors ranked 15th. . . . Kennedy has Swedish D Rasmus Dahlin atop his list, which is right here.


Dan O’Connor and Hartley Miller were a team on Prince George Cougars broadcasts through the past four seasons. However, O’Connor has left Prince George for a position with the Vancouver Giants. In his weekly column, Miller looks back and glances ahead, and it’s all right here.


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Ex-WHL scoring champ retires … Winterhawks add to scouting staff … Silvertips sign imports

F Erik Christensen (Kamloops, Brandon, 1999-2004) announced his retirement in an interview with Jesper Lehto of Jönköpings-Posten. Last season, he had 15 goals and six assists in 45 games with HV-71 Jönköping (Sweden, SHL), the SHL champions.


F Erik Christensen, who won the WHL’s 2002-03 scoring title while with the Kamloops Blazers, has retired.

Christensen made it official in an interview with Jesper Lehto, a writer with Jönköpings-Posten.

Christensen, who is from Edmonton, played the past four seasons with HV-71 Jönköping of the SHL. He helped HV-71 to the league championship last season, but wasn’t offered another contract.

Christensen said he didn’t expect a new contract after the season, adding “that’s when I started thinking about retiring.”

“I did not want to start over again,” Christensen told Lehto. “It had meant a lot of stress and pressure, especially for my wife. I have played in five different NHL teams, in Prague and Sweden. Now I’m 33 years old and do not want to move around anymore.”

He also told Lehto that his agent told him there was interest “from Russia,” but “I have no interest in changing countries again, especially not to Russia.”

Christensen played four-plus seasons with the Blazers, before being traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings during the 2003-04 season. In 338 WHL regular-season games, he put up 133 goals and 153 assists.

He was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third round of the NHL’s 2002 draft. He went on to play 387 NHL games, scoring 68 goals and adding 95 assists. He developed quite a reputation as a shootout specialist while in the NHL with the Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild.

Christensen played the past five seasons in Europe, the last three-plus with HV-71. In 171 games in the SHL, he had 50 goals and 66 assists.


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The Portland Winterhawks have added two scouts — one a veteran and the other a newcomer — to their staff. . . . Ray Payne, from North Vancouver, B.C., is a long-time scout who most recently was with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. . . . Randy Heath, from Vancouver, B.C., is a former Portland player, who is second on the franchise’s all-time goals list and eighth in points. . . . Payne worked for the Hitmen for the past six seasons. Prior to that, he scouted in the NHL for the Minnesota North Stars, San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks. For nine seasons, (1996-2006), he was the Sharks’ director of amateur scouting. He also spent one season (1995-96) as Hockey Canada’s director of scouting. . . . Heath, who is from Vancouver, played three seasons (1981-84) with the Winterhawks, totalling 341 points, including 179 goals, in 199 games.


The Everett Silvertips have signed F Martin Fasko-Rudas and F Pavel Azhgirei, their two selections in the CHL’s 2017 import draft. . . . Fasko-Rudas, 17, is from Slovakia. Last season, with the Slovakian U-18 team, which plays in a U-20 league, he had eight goals and seven assists in 31 games. He also had a goal and three assists in two games with HK Dukla Trencin’s U-20 teams. Fasko-Rudas was pointless in four games with Slovakia at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup earlier this month. . . . Azhgirei, also 17, is from Belarus. Last season, he had five goals and five assists in 34 games with the country’s U-17 team and three assists in 13 games with the U-20 side. He helped the U-17 team win the midget AAA Mac’s tournament in Calgary, putting up four goals and six assists in seven games. He scored twice in a 6-1 victory over the Saskatoon Contacts in the championship final.


Three WHL players are on the roster of Finland’s U-20 national team that is scheduled to play in a Four Nations tournament in Lahti, Finland, next week. . . . Juuso Valimaki of the Tri-City Americans is one of seven defencemen on the team, while Sami Moilanen (Seattle Thunderbirds) and Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current Broncos) are among the 13 forwards listed on the roster. . . . Teams from Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden also will take part in the three-day (Aug. 24-26) event.


G Rylan Parenteau, who played out his junior eligibility last season with the Tri-City Americans, has decided to attend the U of New Brunswick and play for the Varsity Reds. Parenteau, who is from Saskatoon, also played with the Prince Albert Raiders, who selected him in the third round of the 2011 bantam draft. He played two full seasons (2014-16) with the Raiders, then was dealt to the Americans early last season. In 145 regular-season appearances, he was 69-52-10, 3.10, .904.


If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


If you’re looking for a wonderfully interesting book, you can’t go wrong with The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic.

Author Richard Sandomir, who writes for The New York Times, chronicles the last days of Gehrig’s career with the Yankees and all that went into making the movie that followed his death.

Gehrig had played in 2,130 consecutive games when he took himself out of the Yankees’ lineup on May 2, 1939. Two months later, on July 4, he made his famous speech about being the “luckiest man on the face of the earth.” He died on June 2, 1941, a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that came be known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The Pride of the Yankees had its big screen debut on March 5, 1943.

Sandomir details the search for actors to play Gehrig and his wife, Eleanor, as well as a whole lot of interesting anecdotes from goings-on behind the scene.

Interestingly, Samuel Goldwyn, who headed up the Samuel Goldwyn Company, wasn’t a baseballer; he wanted a love story. Gary Cooper, who plays Gehrig, wasn’t a baseballer, either; in fact, he hadn’t even played as a child. On top of that, Cooper was right-handed, while Gehrig was a southpaw.

In preparation for filming, Cooper took a lot of instruction from former major leaguer Lefty O’Doul in learning to hit left-handed. At the time, O’Doul was managing the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals.

If you have seen the movie, you will know that there aren’t many baseball-playing scenes in the movie. Now you know why.

It is interesting to read about the dramatic changes made by Goldwyn, director Sam Wood and the various writers who worked on the script.

For example, on July 4, 1939, the famous line — “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” — was the second sentence in Gehrig’s short speech as he addressed fans at Yankee Stadium. In the movie, though, that line is moved to the end of the speech, purely for dramatic effect.

The movie’s makers also took it upon themselves to shorten Gehrig’s career from 17 seasons to 16.

And while her name doesn’t appear in the book’s title, Gehrig’s widow, Eleanor, played an enormous role in getting the movie made. Played by Teresa Wright in the movie — Wright would garner an Academy Award nomination — Eleanor fought hard in order that her husband’s story be told in a fair and proper fashion. This book also is her story.

Today, more than 70 years after its release, the movie is considered a classic, and Sandomir does a fine job in telling the story of how it came to be.


Winterhawks add veteran coach to staff; also sign former player as coach … T-Birds lose scouting director

It’s neither a surprise nor a badge of honour, but we’re No. 1!

When the B.C. Wildfire Service gave its daily update on Wednesday at 1 p.m., chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said that fires since April 1 have burned 894,491 hectares. That surpassed the 855,000ha that burned in 1958.

The number has taken a big jump this week, thanks to a lot of activity with the two biggest fires and a clearing of smoke that has allowed better mapping.

On Wednesday, there were 145 active fires, including nine new ones.

In Kamloops, we enjoyed sunshine and mostly clear skies on Wednesday, with just a bit of haze. We’re hoping for more of the same in the days to come.

But it’s still only mid-August and we’re nowhere near being out of the woods.

The really good news is that more and more evacuees, many of them from the Bonaparte Lake area, are being allowed to return home. However, there still are about 6,000 people out of their homes and in Kamloops many of them remain at the Sandman Centre.

On Wednesday, Debbie Sell, a spokesperson for the Thompson Nicola Regional District, said the arena will be used as the main reception centre for as long as this situation continues.

The Sandman Centre is home to the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, who already have moved their hockey school, training camp and two exhibition games to the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.


F Marcel Hossa (Portland, 1998-2001) has signed a one-year extension with Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, he had 22 goals and 21 assists in 52 games. He led the team in goals and points, and was for the lead in assists. . . .

F Tomáš Voráček (Prince Albert, 2007-09) has signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL) after a successful tryout. Last season, he had two goals and three assists in 43 games with Mladá Boleslav (Czech Republic, Extraliga).


Danny Flynn, a veteran major junior coach who guided the Saint John Sea Dogs to a QMJHL championship last season, has joined the Portland Winterhawks as an assistant coach.

The Winterhawks also announced that former player Paul Gaustad has been named assistant coach/player development.

Danny Flynn (left) and Paul Gaustad have been added to the Winterhawks’ coaching staff. (Photos: winterhawks.com)

Flynn and Gaustad will work with Mike Johnston, Portland’s vice-president, general manager and head coach, and associate coach Kyle Gustafson.

Johnston and Flynn share the same hometown — Dartmouth, N.S. — and have known each other for years. “I have known Danny since Dartmouth days,” Johnston told Taking Note, adding that he had “worked on the opportunity to get him out west in the past month.”

Johnston and Flynn were assistant coaches together with Team Canada as it won gold at the 1994 World Junior Championship.

Flynn left the Sea Dogs on July 28, saying that he wanted to pursue other opportunities. “I feel the time is right for me to move on,” said Flynn, 59, who had been with Saint John for two seasons.

Flynn, who has coached in the Memorial Cup on six occasions, coached in the OHL, as an assistant or head coach, for eight seasons (1987-95), then was the general manager and head coach of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats for seven seasons (2006-13). He also has worked in NHL for two seasons as an assistant with the New York Islanders (2006-07) and Buffalo Sabres (2004-15).

Gaustad, 35, is from Fargo, N.D., but was raised in Portland. He spent three seasons (1999-2002) with the Winterhawks before going on to an 11-season NHL career. As a player, he was known for his fitness level, his skill on faceoffs and for being a terrific penalty killer.

The Winterhawks had an opening on their staff after Oliver David took over as head coach of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints on May 31. David spent one season in Portland.


The Seattle Thunderbirds have lost their scouting director with Dan McLean having been hired as an amateur scout by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. McLean will focus on the WHL. . . . McLean, who is from Sylvan Lake, Alta., had been with the Thunderbirds for 21 seasons. He was named Seattle’s director of scouting on Sept. 9, 2015. . . . Colin Alexander, Seattle’s former director of player personnel, left the Thunderbirds two years to join the Penguins as an amateur scout.


Ryan Huska, a former WHL player and coach, will be back for a fourth season in the Calgary Flames’ organization after the NHL team signed him to a new deal earlier this month. He is preparing for his third season as the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat. . . . George Johnson, one of the many terrific writers dumped by Postmedia in recent times, has a piece on Huska right here. Johnson now writes for CalgaryFlames.com.


Bob Beatty is the new head coach of the bantam prep team at Shawnigan Lake School in B.C. For the past four seasons, Beatty has been the general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals. Prior to that, he spent 17 seasons coach in the SJHL — nine seasons as GM and head coach of the La Ronge Ice Wolves and eight as the head coach of the Humboldt Broncos.


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If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


Ken Wiebe is a sports writer with the Winnipeg Sun, who happens to spend a lot of his summer on various golf courses, most of them in Manitoba. On Wednesday, he posted these two tweets — about three hours apart.

Scattershooting on a quiet Tuesday … Game on: Blades fire shot at Raiders … Cougars add radio voice

Every day, it seems, there is a moment when you shake your head and say: “Wow! Wow!! Just WOW!!!” . . . And — WOW! — it shows no sign of abating, never mind ending.


The MacBeth Report points out that the Kunlun Red Star Juniors, who play in Russia’s elite junior league, were to have been based out of Beijing but will play out of Riga, Latvia. Meanwhile, Kunlun Red Star, the KHL team that is coached by Mike Keenan, won’t play in Beijing, either; instead, they will be in Shanghai. The China Dragon, an Asian Hockey League team that had played out of Shanghai, folded after last season. . . . I don’t know what it all means, other than there appear to be some growing pains over there.


Bob Molinaro, in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “Tickets are still available for the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Connor McGregor greed-a-palooza on Aug. 26. How much are they? If you have to ask, you can’t afford them, but for the record, ringside seats go for $10,000 each.”


Headline at TheKicker.com: Mayweather, McGregor seen handing out fliers on Vegas strip. . . . Also this one: USPS inducts Karl Malone into Mailman Hall of Fame.


Bob Mackin, over at thebreaker.news, posted an interesting piece on Tuesday that details various political donations made prior to B.C.’s May 9 election. . . . At one point, Mackin points out that “the (NDP) also took in $1.4 million from corporations. The biggest, $101,000, came from two companies owned by the Aquilini family.” . . . Later, Mackin adds: “Major BC Liberal corporate donors included . . . Sandman Inn ($95,000).” . . . The Aquilinis, of course, own the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. . . . The Sandman Hotel Group is part of Northland Properties Corp. Tom Gaglardi, who owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and is the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, is Northland’s president.


So, son, you really, really want to be a catcher, do you? Well, here’s Johnny Bench, maybe the best of them all, in conversation with the St. Paul Pioneer Press: “I’ve had 30 chips taken out of my shoulder . . . I had seven to 10 concussions. I got beaned three times, saw stars and went to first base. I had seven (protective) cups broken, a detached bicep and . . . I’m going to get one more surgery on my right elbow . . . The warranty ran out of my parts. What are you going to do?”


A note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Mariners purchased right-hander Ernesto Frieri from the Rangers — for $1. No truth the rumor Frieri now answers to the nickname of Buck.” . . . The Mariners can only hope they get as much out of Frieri as the Detroit Red Wings got from Kris Draper, a forward who cost them $1 when they bought him from the Winnipeg Jets on June 30, 1993. He went on to play 1,137 games with Detroit and help the Red Wings with three Stanley Cups.


Perry once again, in a note tagged ‘Paging Wile E. Coyote’: “Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers got ejected after an umpire ordered him to quit standing outside the on-deck circle — so Beltre dragged the circle to where he’d been standing instead. On the bright side, Beltre landed a product endorsement for Acme’s portable holes.”


Cam Hutchinson, in the Saskatoon Express: “Joey Votto is the best Canadian baseball player of all time. Too bad he plays in such obscurity.” . . . Hmmm! Ferguson Jenkins was pretty good; so was Larry Walker. . . . Discuss among yourselves.


Prior to the start of this MLB season, there was much talk of how the pooh-bahs were working to shorten game times. Well, here we are in mid-August and the average game is at 3 hours 5 minutes, and that’s four minutes more than last season. Before another season gets here, you can bet that MLB will move to limit the number of visits to the mound made by catchers.


“The Dallas Cowboys released receiver Rodney Whitehead after he was falsely accused of shoplifting,” notes RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “Probably not the first Whitehead to get squeezed out early.”


Sir Paul McCartney has said that a new album will include a song about President Trump. That got Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, to ask: “Didn’t Sir Paul already write Fool on the Hill?”


Some of this WOW!!! stuff has been right out of the pages of MAD Magazine, hasn’t it? Well, HASN’T IT? Please, tell me it has been.


No matter. WHL teams open training camps next week, which will give all of us a break from real life. Right?


Any doubts about whether we are headed for a record fire season in B.C. were erased Tuesday afternoon when Kevin Skrepnek, the B.C. Wildlife Service’s chief information officer, provided the latest numbers during the daily media briefing.

With there having been some smoke movement, officials were able to do some better mapping and now are saying that 1,017 wildfires since April 1 have torched 845,000 hectares (2,088,040 acres).

That puts this fire season within easy striking distance of the record 855,000ha that went up in smoke in 1958.

“We are on track for the worst fire season on record,” Skrepnek said.

Skrepnek also said that the BCWS costs to this point are estimated at $309 million. That doesn’t include costs to other organizations such as the RCMP.

According to Emergency Management BC, the fires have claimed 71 homes, 118 outbuildings, three commercial buildings, one bridge and what they are referring to as 117 ‘other’ structures.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 154 fires burning, with eight of those listed as new.

The two largest fires total 380,000ha between them. The Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire, which is burning southwest of Williams Lake, had an active weekend thanks to high winds and now is at 212,000ha. The Elephant Hill Fire, north and northeast of Clinton, quieted down Monday night after an active weekend and is at 168,000ha.

Looking ahead to the approaching weekend, firefighters are again expecting a hot time of it because there is more wind in the forecast.

The good news on Tuesday came with the rescinding of the evacuation alert for Williams Lake and the lifting of the evacuation order for Clinton and much of the Highway 97 corridor north of Cache Creek. Here’s hoping that those folks are home to stay.


F Zane Jones (Chilliwack/Victoria, Calgary, Everett, Lethbridge, Vancouver, 2010-15) has signed a one-year contract with Sollentuna (Sweden, Division 1). Last season, he had three goals and three assists in nine games with the Innisfail Eagles (Chinook HL). Presently, Jones is with the Newcastle Northstars (Australia, AIHL). He has 10 goals and five assists in 14 games. There are three games remaining in the AIHL regular season. . . .

F Chase Schaber (Calgary, Kamloops, 2007-12) has signed a one-year extension with the Fife Flyers (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, he had 21 goals and 16 assists in 47 games.



Fraser Rodgers has joined the Prince George Cougars as their manager of broadcasting, media and team services. He takes over from Dan O’Connor, who has left the Cougars after six seasons and now is the Vancouver Giants’ director of media relations and radio voice. . . . Rodgers spent the past six seasons as the director of broadcasting and media relations with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. He recently was named the BCHL’s broadcaster of the year for 2016-17, an award voted on by his peers. . . . Rodgers left his Penticton job early in June, with Emanuel Sequeira of the Penticton Western News reporting that “Rodgers will step away from doing work in hockey and is looking toward the commercial private sector saying he needs a fresh start.”


Chris Baird is the Spokane Chiefs’ new assistant director for hockey operations. Baird, 32, has been with the Chiefs for 10 seasons as the video co-ordinator. From Spokane, he was hired during the 2006-07 season and has been, according to a news release, “analyzing coaches’ video and advanced statistics.” More from the news release: “In his new capacity, Baird will assist in all aspects of the hockey operations department, including continuing his video work.”


If you like what you see here, you may want to consider donating to the cause. Should you choose to help out, simply click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner of this page and away you go. Thank you!


If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


Veteran d-man not on Ice roster … Hitmen adding new scout … Cougars ink Detroit first-rounder

We awoke Sunday to sunshine and blue, smokeless skies. By 7 p.m., however, a west wind had started to bring back the smoke that had been so prevalent for much of the previous two weeks.

By Monday morning, we were back into heavy smoke with the air quality index providing a reading north of 10 on the 1-10 scale.

Despite Sunday’s reprieve, it is important that we not get complacent. Officials continue to remind us that this state of emergency is far from over.

In fact, there were 15 new fires spotted on Sunday alone, with most of those caused by lightning. Not only were there 15 new fires, but Kevin Skrepnek, the B.C. Wildlife Service’s chief information officer, said Monday that there was “significant growth” on some of the already major fires over the weekend. For example, the five-week-old Elephant Hill fire, which has been running wild north of Ashcroft, exploded by 48,000 hectares and now is estimated to cover 168,000 hectares.

The total area of burned land is closing in on 730,000 hectares, which means we are close to this being the worst wildfire season in B.C.’s recorded history (in 1958, fires destroyed 855,000 hectares).

Yes, we received some rain during the weekend, but not nearly enough to make even a small dent, and now there isn’t any rain in the forecast.

This summer of smoke and fire, then, isn’t anywhere near its end.



D Kirill Vorobyov (Portland, 2012-13) has been traded by CSKA Moscow to Sibir Novosibirsk (both Russia, KHL) for monetary compensation. Last season, he was pointless in one game with Zvezda Chekhov (Russia, Vysshaya Liga); had three goals and four assists in 35 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (Russia, KHL); and had one goal in 16 games with Sibir Novosibirsk. . . . Vorobyov was traded to CSKA Moscow by Sibir for monetary compensation on May 1. . . .

F Dwight King (Lethbridge, 2004-09) has signed a two-year contract with Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg (Russia, KHL). Last season, he had eight goals and seven assists in 63 games with the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), and one goal in 17 games with the Montreal Canadiens (NHL). . . .

D Jyri Niemi (Saskatoon, 2007-10) has signed a contract through Nov. 4 with KooKoo Kouvola (Finland, Liiga). Last season, he had three assists in 12 games with Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga).Sibir Novosibirsk 16 GP, 1+0. Vorobyov was traded to CSKA Moscow by Sibir for monetary compensation May 1st.


D Troy Murray’s name is conspicuous by its absence from the training camp roster that was posted Monday by the WHL’s Kootenay Ice.

Murray has played four seasons with the Ice. He was a first-round selection, 10th overall, by the Ice in the 2012 bantam draft.

Murray, who will turn 20 on Sept. 12, is from White City, Sask. He has seven goals and 53 assists in 266 regular-season games, to go with three assists in 20 playoff games. Last season, he put up four goals and 14 assists in 67 games.

Murray is the younger brother of former Everett Silvertips D Ryan Murray, who is preparing for his fifth season with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Ice’s roster shows three 20-year-olds — F Colton Kroeker, D Jordan Henderson and G Mario Petit.

Petit, who was acquired from the Everett Silvertips over the summer, is one of six goaltenders listed, but two of them — Gage Alexander of Okotoks, Alta., and Will Gurski of Duncan, B.C. — are 15 years of age so ineligible for full-time duty.

It would appear that Petit and Jakob Walter, 18, who was with the Ice last season, will vie for the starting spot. Also on the roster are a pair of 16-year-olds — Jesse Makaj of North Vancouver and Carter Woodside of Asquith, Sask.

The Ice has signed both of its 2017 CHL import draft selections — Swiss F Gilian Kohler, 17, and Slovakian D Martin Bodak, who turns 19 on Nov. 28 — and they are on the camp roster. A concussion prevented Kohler from playing in last week’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, so you can bet the Ice will be keeping a close eye on him in the early going.

One other interesting name on the Ice roster is F Sebastian Streu, a native of Neuwied, Germany, whose father, Craig, is from Biggar, Sask. Craig has played and coached in Europe since 1992, after he played three seasons at the U of Manitoba. He is preparing for his second season as the team manager and assistant coach with the UPC Vienna Capitals of the Erste Bank Hockey League.

With Craig being a Canadian citizen, Sebastian has dual German-Canadian citizenship, so wouldn’t count as an import should he earn a spot on the Ice’s roster.

Streu played last season with EC Red Bull Salzburg’s U-18 side in Austria, putting up three goals and 12 assists in 26 games. He won’t turn 18 until Nov. 22.

The Ice opens camp on Aug. 25 with prospects on the ice at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook. Main camp begins Aug. 27.


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The Calgary Hitmen are expected to announce today (Tuesday) that Gary Michalick has signed on as their travelling scout. . . . Michalick, who is from Winnipeg, has been a WHL scout since 1987 when he signed on with the Seattle Thunderbirds. He has been with the Brandon Wheat Kings since September 1992, most recently as senior scout. . . . The Hitmen have been doing some restructuring with their front office. Jeff Chynoweth took over as general manager on July 11, the same day that Dallas Thompson was named the director of player personnel. Thompson replaced Dan Bonar, who had been with the team for 14 years.


D Dennis Cholowski, a first-round selection, 20th overall, by the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL’s 2016 draft, has signed with the Prince George Cougars. Cholowski, from Langley, B.C., was picked by the Cougars in the 10th round of the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. . . . Cholowski signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Red Wings in April, which ended his NCAA eligibility. . . . Last season, he had a goal and 11 assists in 36 games as a freshman with St. Cloud State. He spent the previous two seasons with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs. In his draft season, he had 12 goals and 28 assists in 51 games, and was named to the second all-star team. . . . Because he was drafted off an NCAA roster, Cholowski, 19, is eligible to play in the AHL this season, which, in this case, would mean Detroit’s affiliate, the defending-champion Grand Rapids Griffins.


Dan O’Connor is the Vancouver Giants’ new director of media relations and play-by-play voice. O’Connor, who had been with the Prince George Cougars, replaces Brendan Batchelor, now the voice of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks on Sportsnet 650, a new radio station that is to launch on Sept. 4. . . . O’Connor, who is from Tsawwassen, B.C., spent six seasons as the Cougars’ play-by-play voice. . . . Batchelor, who is from Coquitlam, B.C., was the Giants’ radio voice for four seasons. . . . Sportsnet 650 also announced that Corey Hirsch, a former Kamloops Blazers goaltender (1988-92), will provide the analysis on Canucks broadcasts. . . . Who were the odd men out when the music stopped? Jon Abbott had been the radio voice of the Canucks for three seasons, while Dave Tomlinson had been an analyst through seven seasons.


F Brian King has retired from hockey, choosing instead to attend the U of Alabama and take a double major in mechanical engineering and German.

Brian King is leaving the Everett Silvertips and hockey. He’ll attend the U of Alabama. (Photo: everettsilvertips.com)

King, 18, played two seasons with the Everett Silvertips. A native of Exeter, N.H., who lived in Golden, Colo., the Silvertips selected him in the fourth round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft after he had played two seasons with the Rocky Mountain Roughriders U-16 team. The Roughriders play out of Superior, Colo.

Last season, King had four goals and 17 assists in 62 games with Everett, up from four and six in 60 games as a freshman.

He was named the WHL’s scholastic player of the year for 2017-18 and was the valedictorian at Everett High School, the second WHL player to receive such an honour, after D Brayden Coburn of the Portland Winterhawks.

Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald wrote about King, a true student/athlete, in June and that piece is right here.


The Regina Pats were out in full force at the Wickenheiser Classic, the WHL team’s annual golf tournament, on Monday. . . . “Not only is Regina hosting the 2018 CHL championship, the Pats will celebrate their 100th anniversary in conjunction with the Memorial Cup’s centennial,” writes Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post. “The team unveiled its 100th anniversary logos on Monday, designed by Tim and Chris Kroeker from the Brandt Group of Companies. The Pats also announced that they’ve sold 5,000 season tickets for the first time in franchise history. Season tickets will be capped at 5,000 to ensure the availability of other packages and single-game tickets at the 6,500-seat Brandt Centre.” . . . The Pats set a franchise record last season when their average attendance for 36 home games was 5,456. They also sold out all 12 of their home playoff games. . . . Harder’s complete story is right here, along with a photo that shows the logos.


Before he spent three seasons in the WHL (Moose Jaw Warriors, Kamloops Blazers, 2010-13), D Joel Edmundson, a Brandon native, played two seasons with the midget AAA Wheat Kings.

Edmundson now is a regular with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, who picked him in the second round of the NHL’s 2011 draft.

On the weekend, Edmundson presented the Wheaties with a new set of helmets.


Preparing to attend your first WHL training camp, but not sure whether it will impact your NCAA eligibility? If you click right here, you will find a piece from College Hockey Inc., that runs through a lot of scenarios.


With Postmedia having all but completely gutted the sports departments at the major Canadian newspapers that it owns, there are few sports columnists left who have bite left in their keyboards. In fact, Jack Todd, whose prose originates in the pages of the Montreal Gazette, may be the last of that breed. . . . Here’s Todd, on soon-to-be ex-Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria, who was the last owner of the Montreal Expos: “I would be tempted to compare Loria to a snake as he slithers away from the game, supposedly in October — but snakes occasionally do useful things, like getting rid of rats, and it is entirely possible to like a snake.” . . . Todd’s piece is right here.


If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


The Kootenay Ice has added Laurie Dickson to its staff as the health and wellness coach. Dickson operates Aspire2bFit in Kamloops. . . . From an Ice news release: Dickson “is a two-time world champion professional fitness model, physique judge, Team Isagenix athlete, champion motocross racer and coach, provincial mountain bike racer and is currently competing in road racing.” . . . Matt Cockell, the Ice’s president and GM, said: ““Laurie will motivate and educate our players on daily health and wellness habits (choices) that are required for consistent performance. Adding experienced professionals in areas such as health and wellness, sports science, strength and conditioning and mental skills will provide our players with the best opportunity for development working closely with our coaching staff.” . . . In the last while, the Ice also has hired coaches in the areas of strength and conditioning (Neil Ross), and mental skills (Doug Swanson), along with a sports performance consultant (Adam Douglas).


Monday’s with Murray: Nobody Ever Had Him In His Pocket

The University of Georgia has produced some great athletes over the years, but none better than Francis (Fran) Asbury Tarkenton. The son of a Methodist minister, Tarkenton was born on Feb. 3, 1940, in Richmond, Va. He attended Athens High School in Athens, Ga., then went on to the University of Georgia where he was the quarterback. Under Bulldogs head coach Wally Butts and Tarkenton, Georgia won the 1959 Southeastern Conference championship. Tarkenton was a first-team All-SEC selection in 1959 and 1960.


TUESDAY, JUNE, 3, 1986, SPORTS

Copyright 1986/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Nobody Ever Had Him In His Pocket

They called him frantic Francis. They couldn’t keep him in the pocket, not two generations of coaches, not relays of 250-pound defensive ends, blitzing linebackers, not life itself. He gave elusivity a new dimension.

   The eyes give him away. He’s not physically prepossessing at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, but the eyes are the eyes of a forest creature on the prowl for food and on the lookout for enemies. Or of a guy with his own deck looking for suckers. They are survivors’ eyes, wary inquisitive, quick. 

   This is the look of a guy asked to go through Indian territory at night with only a map and a canteen, which is a fair description of his life in the NFL. You can tell that every sense is alert. He looks like a guy who never sleeps and rarely stands still. 

   He is football’s equivalent of Bugs Bunny. His whole career was a Saturday afternoon serial. He made ‘The Perils of Pauline’ look like ‘Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.’

   In the NFL, the suspense is supposed to be whether anybody can catch the ball. With Francis, the suspense was whether he would ever throw it. He ran for more yards than any quarterback who ever lived. And that was only the ones beyond the line of scrimmage. If you counted the yards behind, he has more yards than any running back who ever lived. 

   He wasn’t fast. He didn’t have the strongest arm. He tended to dart, duck, twist and squirm. “Hit ’em where they ain’t” was baseball player Wee Willie Keeler’s motto. Francis threw it where they weren’t. 

   By any yardstick you want to use, Francis Asbury Tarkenton was the best quarterback pro football ever had. He threw for more touchdowns, 342, more yards, 47,003, and more completions, 3,686, than any other quarterback. He took his team to three Super Bowls in four years. He ran for 30 touchdowns and 3,669 yards. 

   Which makes you wonder why Fran Tarkenton didn’t get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until this year, three years after his initial eligibility. He threw for 52 more touchdowns than any quarterback, had nearly 1,000 more completions and almost 7,000 more yards. You would think the Hall of Fame would have come to him. 

   The rap against Fran Tarkenton has always been that he threw short passes, that his completions were just complicated handoffs. The spuriousness of this argument can be seen in the yards rolled up, four to 20 miles more than other Hall of Fame quarterbacks like John Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen or Roger Staubach. 

   Tarkenton rebuts the charge. “In the first place, the long ball is the easiest to throw,” he says. “The Hail Mary is a test of luck, not skill. It’s like putting a note in a bottle and launching it over the side. If the arm were all there were to quarterbacking, a guy named Rudy Bukich was the greatest quarterback who ever played. He could throw the ball overseas.” 

   Tarkenton also says that his scrambles were actually artful geometric patterns. They looked on paper like a chart of a Rube Goldberg invention. Player A takes ball to Point B where he bumps into Defensive End C and reverses his field to Point D where water is dripped into a hole that makes Linebacker E slip and allows Player A to duck under arm (F) and release ball (G) into air when it skids off helmet (H) of Cornerback I into waiting arms of Tight End J, who falls over Safety K into end zone for touchdown. 

   “I was never out of control back there,” Tarkenton says. 

   “You see, what the drop-back quarterbacks would do, they would peel back 20 yards or roll right 15 yards, then they would throw to a wide-out who had gone down the field 15 yards and then ran an ‘out’ to the left sideline. So what you’re talking about is a 50- or 60-yard pass to make 10 or 15 yards. 

   “I would scramble to a prepared position. I would never release a ball 30 or 35 yards behind the line of scrimmage. My purpose in scrambling was two-fold: tire out the pass rushers and psych out the secondary.

   “So the theory gained credence: If Tarkenton has to scramble and run, he must not be a very good passer. If you can punch, why box? One time, the Green Bay Packers decided, ‘OK, we won’t rush him.’ They stopped their pass rush. I picked them apart. The next time, they came in with their ears laid back and growling again.

   “A quarterback is a passer, not a thrower. Fernando Valenzuela doesn’t need a 100 m.p.h. fastball. Putting the ball where you want it is more important than putting it in orbit.” 

   No one was any better at putting the ball where he wanted it than not-so-frantic Francis. 

   The world still can’t keep him in the pocket. Tarkenton was through town the other day, and he still manages to go through a hotel lobby as if it were stacked with Deacon Joneses, who used to say he trained for a game against Tarkenton by locking himself in a roomful of mosquitoes and turning out the lights. You find Tarkenton by looking for the nearest cloud of dust. 

   He looks at an interviewer as if he were deciding whether a down-and-out, a simple swing pass or a quarterback sneak were called for. His television career — ‘That’s Incredible’ and ‘Monday Night Football’ — behind him, he now is concentrating on his advertising and motivational business, Tarkenton Production Group. 

   “We deal in telling company executives how to be executives,” he said. “We tell them you cannot ignore good behavior and only attend to the bad behavior, which is the way most people seem to run their businesses — and lives.” 

   Tarkenton should know. He spent 17 years listening to the negatives — “He can’t do that. He can’t run around outside the cup like that” — to the point where it took the Hall of Fame three years to realize he was their shiniest ornament. 

   They probably figured they couldn’t keep him in one place long enough and didn’t want to plan an induction where they have to chase the honoree down the street to enroll him. If he had a football, they’d never catch him.

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

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What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org

Former Pats coach dies at 74; guided team to 1980 WHL title … Team Canada wins gold

Bryan Murray had coached university and junior A hockey for nine years before he found his way to the WHL.

Murray, who died Saturday at the age of 74 after battling colon cancer for three years, spent four years at MacDonald College in Montreal and then was with the CJHL’s Rockland Nationals for five seasons.

As the Nationals, a junior A team, were concluding their 1978-79 season, the Regina Pats were putting the wraps on one of the most abysmal seasons in their history — they finished with 18 victories, five ties and 49 losses. That left them last in the WHL’s four-team East Division and out of the playoffs.

The 1979-80 Regina Pats, with head coach Bryan Murray (front row, fourth from left) and general manager Bob Strumm (front row, sixth from left). (Photo: reginapatsalumni.net, from Darren Bobyck collection.)

Before the 1979-80 season arrived, the Pats would have new ownership (the Saskatoon-based Pinder family, along with three Regina businessmen — Will Klein, Gord Knowlton and Ross Sneath). They also would have a new general manager in Bob Strumm, who also owned a piece of the action. He would hire a new head coach.

Strumm had been the general manager of the WHL’s Billings Bighorns for two seasons. (They would play in Billings through 1981-82, then morph into the Nanaimo Islanders, New Westminster Bruins and, finally, Tri-City Americans.)

The man Strumm picked to get the Pats turned around was Bryan Murray, a native of Shawville, Que.

Strumm had hoped to hire Terry Simpson away from the Prince Albert Raiders, but Simpson chose to stay put. Now it was mid-July and Strumm, who admitted to having put all of his eggs in Simpson’s basket, didn’t have a coach.

Strumm got Murray’s name through former NHL goaltender Roger Crozier, who now was an assistant GM with the NHL’s Washington Capitals. The Capitals had just hired Gary Green from the OHL’s Peterborough Petes to coach their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Crozier touched base with Green, who came up with Murray’s name.

“He’ll tell you that he was considering retirement and going back to teaching school,” Strumm told Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post in the spring of 2007 as Murray and Senators prepared to play in the Stanley Cup final. “He’d had enough of (junior A) and if he couldn’t move up at that stage of his life, he was going to back to teaching. It’s funny. Now he’s the fifth-winningest coach in NHL history.”

All Murray did with the Pats was get them into the Memorial Cup in what may have been the greatest coaching job of his long career.

This was in a time before a host team gained an automatic berth into major junior hockey’s championship tournament. In those days, it was a three-team affair, featuring the OHL, QMJHL and WHL champions.

The 1980 tournament had been awarded to the cities of Brandon and Regina. It would open with three games in Brandon — the Wheat Kings had won the WHL title in 1979, but were mediocre in 1980 — and finish up in Regina.

Murray and the Pats made sure it would be a success by going 47-24-1 — an amazing 52-point improvement — then going on to win the WHL’s playoff championship.

Things didn’t go as well in a Memorial Cup tournament that also featured the Petes and the QMJHL’s Cornwall Royals. You may recall that things turned ugly when Regina fans accused the Petes of throwing the final game of the round-robin — after leading 4-1 in the second period, they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Royals — something that resulted in the Pats being eliminated. Cornwall then beat Peterborough, 3-2 in OT, to win the tournament.

“He’s a special coach,” Strumm told Vanstone. “He’s one of the few guys I’ve ever seen who starts at the outside and works to the inside with the details. He kind of lets the guys have fun and go for it offensively and he does a lot of attack drills early, because offence is fun and defence is hard work.

“As the season progresses, then he starts to tighten and tighten and tighten and bring it to the core for the final 20 games of the season with all the details and everything. It was really interesting.

“Most coaches start with the little details and defensive hockey first and then work to the outer limits, but he did it the opposite — at least in Regina, and we won.”

Murray’s Regina team had five 100-point scorers — Doug Wickenheiser (170), Ron Flockhart (130), defenceman Darren Veitch (122), Brian Varga (118) and Mike Blaisdell (109).

Goaltender Bart Hunter, who wasn’t on the roster when training camp started, would play in 69 of 72 regular-season games, going 45-21-1, 4.06, .884. (Hunter had been the Memorial Cup MVP one year earlier when the Wheat Kings had added him to their tournament roster from the Portland Winterhawks.)

You could make the case that Murray was a major factor in putting the Pats back on Regina’s sporting map.

But his stint in Regina would last only the one season.

The Pats tried to keep him by making a contract offer late in the season. Murray was torn, because his family had stayed at home in Shawville, Que., where there was a hotel and a sporting goods store.

When the 1980-81 season began, Murray wasn’t in Regina. Rather, he was the head coach of the Hershey Bears. On Nov. 11, 1981, Murray was named Washington’s head coach.

And thus would begin an NHL career — head coach, general manager, advisor — that lasted until his death on Saturday. At the end, he was a senior advisor with the Ottawa Senators.

One only had to tour social media to learn just how beloved Murray was throughout the hockey community.

Earlier this week, the Senators added Bobby Strumm to their coaching staff. He is Bob Strumm’s son. Bryan Murray was Bobby’s godfather.

In fact, Bobby’s full name is Robert Bryan Murray Strumm.


David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail has a piece on Bryan Murray right here.

The Canadian Press has a story right here.


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Team Canada won its ninth Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in 10 years on Saturday, beating the host Czech Republic, 4-1, in Breclav. . . . F Jack McBain of the OJHL’s Toronto Jr. Canadiens had a goal and two assists as Canada won the summer U-18 tournament for the 21st time in 27 years. . . . Brent Kisio of the Lethbridge Hurricanes was Team Canada’s head coach. Included on the roster were six WHLers — F Luka Burzan (Moose Jaw Warriors), F Jackson Shepard (Kamloops Blazers), F Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets), D Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs), D Jett Woo (Moose Jaw) and D Caleb Addison (Lethbridge). Khore Elliott of the Victoria Royals was the athletic therapist, with Gord Cochran (Regina Pats) the equipment manager. . . . Next year, the tournament will be held in Canada for the first time when it is held in Edmonton.

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If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


The AJHL’s Calgary Canucks have added Darryl Olsen to their staff as an assistant coach, while also announcing that team president Pat Loyer will serve as the general manager in 2017-18. Olsen joins head coach Colin Birkas, who is heading into his first season, and assistant Jason Hanna on the coaching staff. . . . Olsen spent last season with the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons, serving at various times as general manager, interim head coach and assistant coach. . . . Hanna has seven years of AJHL coaching experience on his resume. . . . The Canucks also announced that Kevin Sajinovic will return for a fifth season as goaltending coach.


Scattershooting on a lawn-mowing Friday … Bondra’s return up in air … Rossignol tells it like it was

The Saskatchewan Roughriders play host to the B.C. Lions on Sunday afternoon. The Roughriders (2-4) lost 30-15 — it wasn’t that close — in Vancouver on Saturday. You would think that another loss would send Rider Nation into Regina’s streets, pitchforks in hand.


There is only one thing wrong with the Los Angeles Dodgers burning up the National League this season. It’s happening in the season after Vin Scully’s retirement.


With the Trumpmeister having threatened North Korea with “fire and fury,” you are free to wonder how concerned the Tri-City Americans might be, what with the Hanford Nuclear Reservation located just north of Richland. Yes, I know that it is mostly decommissioned, but do you think Kim Jong-un is aware of that.


Perhaps Bob Tory, the Americans’ co-owner and general manager, should make Kim an honourary season-ticket holder, you know, just to be on the safe side.


When Genie Bouchard and Milos Raonic departed early from the Rogers Cup, you have to think the event’s organizers were sweating. But then along came Denis Shapovalov to save the day. Genie Who? Milos Next Time?


Swedish forward Elias Pettersson, taken fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2017 NHL draft, apparently wasn’t anywhere near the top of his game at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich. His coach speculated that perhaps three trips to North America this off-season had taken their toll. Gee, you think!


In the first half of the MLB season, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees was able to lay off sliders low and away, and he was lights out. Now he’s swinging at that pitch and the result is a whole lot of strikeouts. Yes, some observers are blaming the Home Run Derby for his bad habits.


The World Series-champion Chicago Cubs lost catcher Willson Contreras to an injury to his right hamstring on Wednesday. With Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant scuffling, Contreras, who has 21 fingers and 70 RBI, had been carrying them of late. If he’s gone for up to six weeks, it just might derail a repeat.


Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Idly wondering: Why did Superman need a real job? Need cash? Grab a lump of coal and squeeze it into a diamond. Want to get close to Lois Lane? Call her and say, ‘Superman here, let’s have lunch.’ And if Superman needed a real job, why newspaper reporter? Should I fight interplanetary crime today, or cover the Metropolis school board meeting?”


FIRE REPORT: Smoke cleared enough that I was able to mow the lawn without feeling that I had smoked a pack of Mark Tens — remember them? — while I was doing it. . . . From the 1 p.m. BC Wildlife Service update — 143 fires, 11 of them new. Since April 1, 966 fires have burned 646,000 hectares. Kevin Skrepnek, the BCWS’s excellent information office, made the point that the area is “more than double the size of Greater Vancouver.” . . . The cost to the BCWS is $270.7 million. . . . There are more than 3,700 personnel working the fires, along with more than 650 firefighters from out of province, and more than 1,500 contractors. . . . All crown land in the Cariboo Fire Centre has been closed to public access as of Friday afternoon. . . . It isn’t going to get any better with wind and lightning expected in the Interior today.


F Mário Grman (Red Deer, Kootenay, 2014-16) has signed a one-year contract with Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga) after a successful tryout. Last season, he had a goal and two assists in three games with Topolcany U20 (Slovakia, U20), three assists in 17 games with Team Slovakia U20 (Slovakia, Extraliga), a goal and two assists in seven games with Team Slovakia U20 (Slovakia, 1. Liga), and two assists in 14 games with Žilina (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . . The Slovakian national junior team plays a regular schedule in the professional Extraliga and 1. Liga prior to the World Junior Championship.


A report on Friday indicated that F Radovan Bondra, a 20-year-old Slovakian, will return to the Prince George Cougars for a third WHL season. However, the Cougars aren’t so sure.

The Athletic’s Scott Powers reported that the Chicago Blackhawks, who selected Bondra in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL draft, haven’t offered him a contract and won’t have room for him on the roster of their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. So a decision has been made to return him to the Cougars. Because the Blackhawks drafted him out of Europe and not off a CHL roster, the NHL team holds his rights for four years, until July 2019.

Bondra is expected to attend the start of the Cougars’ training camp later this month and then leave for the Blackhawks’ rookie camp.

As for his return for the WHL regular season . . .

“Not sure on that one,” a source familiar with the situation told Taking Note last night. “We’re not hearing that from the other side.”

Last season, Bondra had 19 goals and 12 assists in 32 games with the Vancouver Giants. After being dealt to Prince George, he had 13 goals and 19 assists in 30 games with the Cougars.

Interestingly, there was a report early in June that Bondra had signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava, a Slovakian team that plays in the KHL. However, he isn’t on the team’s training camp roster.

As a 20-year-old import, Bondra would be a two-spotter with the Cougars — one of their two imports and one of three 20s — should he end up back with them.

Bondra joins F Aaron Boyd, F Jared Bethune, D Shane Collins, F Brogan O’Brien, D Tate Olson and F Tanner Wishnowski as other 20s on the Cougars’ roster. Of course, they are able to keep only three of those. They also hold the WHL rights to F Jesse Gabrielle, D Brendan Guhle and F Jansen Harkins, each of whom is expected to play professionally in 2017-18.

The Cougars selected F Vladislav Mikhalchuk, an 18-year-old from Belarus in the CHL’s 2017 import draft. Prince George’s roster also includes Russian F Nikita Popugaev, who was a fourth-round pick by the New Jersey Devils in the NHL’s 2017 draft. He will turn 19 on Nov. 20.


If you like what you see here, you may want to consider donating to the cause. Should you choose to help out, simply click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner of this page and away you go. Thank you!


With Brad McEwen having left the Calgary Flames for Hockey Canada, the NHL team has an opening for an amateur scout in Western Canada. Speculation around the WHL has it that Darren Kruger will be leaving the Medicine Hat Tigers to fill that spot. . . . McEwen, who had been with the Flames for three years, now is the head scout for Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence. Interestingly, he joined the Flames from Medicine Hat, where he had filled a number of positions — general manager, assistant GM, director of scouting — over five seasons (2009-14). . . . Kruger has been with the Tigers since 2006, first as an assistant coach and for the past three seasons as the director of player development.

Meanwhile, the Prince Albert Raiders have added Douglas Bodner to their scouting staff. Bodner, who has coached minor hockey for 45 years, will work on B.C.’s Lower Mainland. From a news release: “Bodner was recently the co-ordinator for the Lower Mainland East development stream for B.C. Hockey. He also has 45 years of minor hockey coaching experience, including twice being named the Mission Minor Hockey coach of the year.”


The Kootenay Ice announced on Aug. 1 that it had signed Swiss F Gilian Kohler, whose rights had been selected in the CHL’s 2017 import draft. Five days later, Kohler suffered a concussion in an exhibition game while playing for Switzerland against Belarus in Breclav, Czech Republic. The concussion kept him out of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. . . . On Tuesday, Kohler’s father, Denis, told Brad McLeod of the Cranbrook Townsman: “The doctor said that he could take the plane home and he’s already feeling much better. Of course, he needs rest, but it’s not posing any problems.” . . . Kohler is expected to leave Switzerland on Aug. 25 as he journeys to Cranbrook for the start of training camp. . . . McLeod’s story is right here.


Don Nachbaur, the third-winningest head coach in WHL history, spent the past 20 years in the league, with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs. He and the Chiefs parted company after last season and now he’s preparing for his first season as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. . . . Nachbaur was in Prince George the other day and took time to chat with Hartley Miller, the sports director at 94.3 The Goat. Miller’s piece is right here.

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The NHL’s Ottawa Senators have added Bobby Strumm to their amateur scouting staff. Strumm is the son of Bob Strumm, who has been in and around the WHL and various teams since the early 1970s. Bobby has spent the past four seasons as a scout with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.


Brad Howard has stepped in as the SJHL’s new referee-in-chief. Howard is a veteran on-ice official, who began working junior A games at the age of 18. Since then, he has continuously been involved with the SJHL as a linesmen, referee and/or supervisor. He has worked as a referee-in-chief or supervisor with the U-17 World Hockey Challenge and Royal Bank Cup on three occasions each, the USports championship and the Junior A Challenge. . . . With the SJHL, Howard takes over from Tracy Cook, who filled the position since 2009. Cook, who has been involved in the SJHL for more than 40 years, has stepped aside due to health concerns.


During the course of a season, far more third- and fourth-liners than front-line players move through the WHL. D Royce Rossignol, from Surrey, B.C., was one such player.  A seventh-round selection by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2011 bantam draft, he would play only seven games in the WHL. But he would play in seven different junior leagues from 2013-17. Rossignol, now 21, put his thoughts and memories into essay form earlier this year and posted them in blog form. There are two parts — Part 1 is right here; Part 2 is right here — and they should be required reading to aspiring junior hockey players and their parents. . . . A tip of the cap to Matthew Gourlie (@Matt Gourlie) for bringing these pieces to my attention.


If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


The Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation has hired Finnish coach Jarmo Tolvanen to guide its men’s national and U-20 teams. . . . Following the 2017 IIHF World Championship (Division 1 Group A), the federation chose not to pick up the option on former WHLer’s Rich Chernomaz’s contract. . . . Hungary finished fifth in that tournament. . . . Chernomaz had taken the men’s team to five World Championship events, with the team having qualified to play in the top group in 2016. He also guided the U-20 team through four Worlds. Last winter, Hungary won a tournament in Budapest and was promoted to Division 1A. . . . For the past two seasons, Tolvanen has been with Stjermen in Norway’s top league.


Blazers keeping eye on fire situation … Chiefs forward gets NHL deal … Raiders coach leaves

There are 80 firefighters from New Zealand helping in this season of fire in B.C. One of them is a helicopter pilot who has told Radio New Zealand that everyone is working in an ”apocalyptic twilight” amid the worst conditions he has experienced in 25 years.

Stephen Boyce told RNZ that “the visibility and flying conditions are the worst I have experienced on fires in 25 years.”

If you are curious about what it’s like on the front lines, there is more right here from radionz.co.nz.


According to the BC Wildlife Service’s Thursday afternoon report, there were 148 fires burning, with 15 new ones — most of which were started by lightning strikes. The new fires were mostly in the southeastern and northeastern parts of the province. Since April 1, the BCWS has dealt with 958 fires that have torched 621,000 hectares.

The Elephant Hill fire, which is the one that started all the fun in the Kamloops area, was at 117,170 hectares and continuing to be most active in spots.

The cost to the BCWS as of this report was $264.3 million.

In Kamloops, we had yet another terribly smoky day. On the air-quality scale of 1-10, with 10 being poorest, we were between 15 and 21 well into the evening.

There might be some clearing by Saturday, though, and there are weekend showers in the forecast.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, the Kamloops Blazers will move their hockey school, training camp and exhibition games from the Sandman Centre, which is being used as an emergency evacuation reception centre, to the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.

The hockey school is to run next week, while training camp opens on Aug. 22 when goaltenders report.

Kamloops has home exhibition games scheduled for Sept. 1, against the Victoria Royals, and Sept. 9, against the Kelowna Rockets.

The Blazers and the WHL will be keeping a close eye on things because the way things are going this situation could easily run well into September and perhaps threaten the start of the regular season.

The Blazers are scheduled to open by going home-and-home with the Rockets, playing in Kelowna on Sept. 22 and at the Sandman Centre the next night.

The arena right now is full of cots and other evacuation-related material, meaning it will take a day or two to get it ready for the installation of ice, something that itself takes the better part of a week.

So if the process of getting the facility ready for hockey hasn’t started by mid-September, you have to think Plan B will be put into motion.

At the start, that would include just the Sept. 23 game against the visiting Rockets. After that, the Blazers aren’t scheduled to play at home until Oct. 4 and Oct. 6, when the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals are to visit.

One thing is for sure, though — you won’t hear the Blazers complaining.

“When we look at what’s going on right now,” Don Moores, the franchise’s president and COO, told Earl Seitz of CFJC-TV, “it’s certainly a minor inconvenience (when compared) to what a lot of people are dealing with right now.

“We’re happy to do it and hopefully this will get resolved quickly.”


F Jim Vandermeer (Red Deer, 1997-2001) has signed a one-year extension with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite). Last season, he had eight goals and 17 assists in 50 games. Vandermeer also was named a player/assistant coach for this season. He was a first team Elite League all-star last season. . . .

F Denis Zaripov (Swift Current, 1998-99) and Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL) have mutually agreed to terminate their contract. Zaripov was suspended by the IIHF for two years in July after testing positive for a banned substance in May. Zaripov has appealed the suspension.


F Kailer Yamamoto of the Spokane Chiefs has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. They selected him with the 22nd overall pick of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . Yamamoto, who is from Spokane, participated in the Oilers’ development camp early in July and played for Team USA at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich., last week. He is scheduled to play for the Oilers’ entry in the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C., Sept. 8-11, and then take part in Edmonton’s main camp. . . . Yamamoto, who turns 19 on Sept. 29, will return to the Chiefs for a fourth season and it is anticipated that he will be on Team USA’s roster for the 2018 World Junior Championship that opens in Buffalo on Dec. 26. . . . Last season, Yamamoto had 42 goals and 57 assists in 65 games for the Chiefs, who didn’t make the playoffs. In 190 career regular-season games, he has 227 points, including 84 goals.


Dustin Schwartz, the goaltending coach with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, has taken on a part-time role as the WHL’s goaltending consultant. Schwartz, 38, will supervise the WHL’s goaltending advisory committee and will be part of a national goaltending advisory group. The Oilers own the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings and Schwartz, who is from Stettler, Alta., is the junior team’s goaltending coach. He played in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers and Red Deer Rebels (1996-2000) before spending five years at the U of Alberta.


Brandin Cote has left his position as an assistant coach with the Prince Albert Raiders to work as an associate coach with the Red Deer College Kings. Cote spent one season with the Raiders. . . . Earlier, he spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Kings. . . . Cote, 36, is from Swift Current. He played five seasons (1997-2002) with the Spokane Chiefs.


The Kootenay Ice has hired Neil Ross as its strength and conditioning coach. Ross spent the past 10 years in Australia, where, according to an Ice news release, “he held coaching, sport science, and strength and conditioning roles with Cycling Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport. Ross is also a veteran of dozens of world championship and Olympic campaigns.” . . . Before going to Australia, he was the head strength and conditioning coach at McMaster U in Hamilton, where he also was the director and head coach at the Canadian National Cycling Centre.


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If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


Blazers likely to move camp … Chiefs, ‘Tips add trainers … Ex-WHLers get ECHL deals

My camera doesn’t really do justice for a shot like this, but that’s the sun, which was blood red, setting over the hills east of Kamloops on Wednesday night.

As you can tell by the photo, it was another smoky day in Kamloops.

As mentioned previously, we live 20 km east of the city in an area known as Campbell Creek. There was a change in the smoke on Tuesday that carried over to Wednesday; oh, it’s still smoke, but it’s lower now than it had been; it lays in the trees and hovers just above water level in the South Thompson River.

There are rumblings that we may get a break from it as the weekend approaches, and I even heard something about scattered showers in the forecast for Saturday or Sunday. Yes, I will believe that when it happens.

In the meantime, you should know that if you go into the back country, start a campfire and get caught, the BC Conservation Officer Service will write you a ticket that will cost you $1,150. On the long weekend, the BCCOS wrote 19 such tickets. Seriously!


F Kruise Reddick (Tri-City, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Guildford Flames (England, UK Elite). Last season, he had six goals and 13 assists in 52 games with Vita Hästen Norrköping (Sweden, Allsvenskan). . . .

D Linden Springer (Prince George, Portland, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). Last season, with Lakehead University (OUA West), he had two goals and five assists in 23 games. . . .

D Petr Kuboš (Prince George, 1997-99) has signed a a tryout contract with Vsetín (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). Last season, he had three goals and 13 assists in 39 games with Tychy (Poland, PHL). Kuboš is from Vsetín.


The Kamloops Blazers may be forced out of the Sandman Centre for training camp and exhibition games. Radio NL, the longtime voice of the Blazers, reported Wednesday that the wildfire situation may necessitate a switch. The arena is being used as an evacuation centre and is housing evacuees. As Jon Keen, the play-by-play voice, tweeted, the “situation likely not improving the next month.” . . . Goalies are to report to camp on Aug. 22, with freshmen coming in Aug. 25 and veterans on Aug. 27. . . . According to Keen, the Blazers are preparing to hold training camp at the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre or Memorial Arena. . . . Memorial Arena was the home of the Blazers before the opening of the Sandman Centre, which was then known as Riverside Coliseum. . . . The Blazers have two home exhibition games scheduled — against the Victoria Royals on Sept. 1 and the Kelowna Rockets on Sept. 9. According to the exhibition schedule on the WHL website, both games will be played at McArthur Island.


Darren Steinke, the travellin’ blogger, wrote a piece over the weekend that carried this headline: When Shultz stirred the pot between Raiders and Blades. . . . The blog entry detailed goings-on leading up to and during a game between the Saskatoon Blades and hometown Prince Albert Raiders on Jan. 30, 2004. Chris Schlenker was a defenceman with the Raiders and found himself in the middle of some stuff in that game. . . . Steinke’s blog is right here.

Meanwhile, the Medicine Hat News carried a piece on Schlenker on Wednesday. If you aren’t aware, Schlenker, who was a WHL tough cookie, now is an NHL referee. The News’s story is right here.


Joseph Hurley is the Spokane Chiefs’ new head trainer and conditioning coach. He replaces Todd Daniels, who has left Spokane after nine years to join the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners. The Chiefs announced his departure on Monday. . . . Hurley, 28, spent last season with the NAHL’s Amarillo Bulls. He has an exercise and sports science degree from Coastal Carolina and graduated from Seton Hall with a master’s of science in athletic training in 2015. He was an assistant trainer with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers in 2015-16.


The Everett Silvertips have added Blake Draughon as their athletic trainer. He replaces Rob Tagle, who has joined the ECHL’s Worcester Railers, who are preparing for their first season. . . . Draughon, 28, has a bachelor of science from Texas Tech (2011) and graduated from the Texas Tech Health Sciences Centre with a master’s of science in athletic training in 2015. . . . He has training experience with Plainview, Texas, High School, and with Texas Tech, including with the Red Raiders football team. He also worked with the NHL’s Dallas Stars during their July 2014 development camp.


Marty Williamson, a veteran OHL coach, has been named interim head coach of the Brock U Badgers for 2017-18. The Badgers play out of St. Catharines, Ont. . . . Williamson, 54, replaces Murray Nystrom, who had coached the Badgers since 1998. . . . Williamson had been the general manager and head coach of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, who also play out of St. Catharines for six seasons (2010-16). The IceDogs fired him in May 2016 despite the fact they made the playoffs in each of his six seasons and won two Eastern Conference championships.


The BCHL’s Vernon Vipers announced on Wednesday that they have signed F Alex Swetlikoff, 16, and F Josh Prokop, 17. . . . Swetlikoff, from Kelowna, was grabbed by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the third round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He has committed to Denver U for 2020-21. Last season, he had 19 goals and 26 assists in 28 games with the Yale Hockey Academy prep team in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. . . . Prokop, from Edmonton, was a fifth-round selection by the Swift Current Broncos in the fifth round of the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. Last season, Prokop had 29 goals and 28 assists in 30 games with the CSSHL’s Northern Alberta X-Treme prep side. . . . “We feel like both of these players are major acquisitions for our hockey club,” Mark Vernon, the Vipers’ head coach, said, “and they will both be important pieces of the Vernon Vipers, not just for next season, but for the future as well. We are really excited.”

——

The Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, which is located in Wilcox, Sask., and is home to the Hounds, is looking for a hockey operations assistant who also would help out as an assistant coach with the junior A team that plays in the SJHL. A partial job description: “The hockey operations assistant is responsible for recruiting, co-ordinating and organizing the Spring Showcases and Summer Camps . . . while providing assistance with the fall camp operations. The individual in this position will work within the Hockey Office and related areas providing administrative support. The staff member in this position directly reports to the male hockey co-ordinator.” . . . There’s a lot more information right here.


The SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars, who are the reigning champions, firmed up their coaching staff on Wednesday, naming Brandon Heck general manager and head coach, with Boyd Wakelin coming on board as assistant coach. . . . For the past four seasons, Heck, 32, has been the head coach of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League’s Camrose Red Wings. From Forrestburg, Alta., he played junior A with the MJHL’s Winkler Flyers and the AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder, then spent four years playing for NCAA Division III Castleton, Vt., Spartans. . . . Heck replaces Nate Bedford, now the head coach of the Portage College Voyageurs in Lac La Biche, Alta. . . . Wakelin, 26, is from Battleford and is a former North Stars player.


F Patrick D’Amico, who played three seasons (2012-15) with the Regina Pats, has signed with the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators. D’Amico, 22, is from Winnipeg. He played 50 games with Atlanta in 2015-16, putting up 13 goals and seven assists. Last season, he had six goals and 10 assists in 38 games with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. . . . Meanwhile, the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads have re-signed D Corbin Baldwin for a third season. Baldwin, 26, spent four seasons (2008-12) with the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Sean Zimmerman, another former Spokane defenceman (2003-07), has signed with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. He spent last season with the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles. In fact, Zimmerman, 30, was the team captain as they won the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions.


If you like what you see here, you may want to consider donating to the cause. Should you choose to help out, simply click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner of this page and away you go. Thank you!


If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).