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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