Portland hopes d-man back in four weeks … Tri-City forward gets NHL deal … Chiefs to change benches

Kamloops was back in the smoke on Saturday. In Campbell Creek, 20 km east, it also was smoky. It wasn’t as bad as Thursday when the air quality hit 49 on a scale of 1-10, but we weren’t barbecuing yesterday.

The inferno knowns as the Elephant Hill fire, which is north of Ashcroft and just east of Clinton — grew to more than 110,000 hectares — that’s 271,816 acres — as it remains incredibly active.

One of the things I have learned in this summer of fire is that stupidity, like rust, never sleeps.

Consider the above tweet, and that’s just for starters.

On the night of July 31, thieves made off with a water pump and hoses — 10 100-foot lengths — that were being used by the B.C. Wildfire Service in the Castlegar area.

On July 25, two hikers were found in Tweedsmuir Park near Anahim Lake— that’s Carey Price country. It’s also an area that was closed because of the fire situation. Wildlife people had to extinguish a campfire as the two were helicoptered out of the area. They were fined a total of $1,233.

There have been other similar stories, including one from the Kelowna area that involved a couple of $1,000 fines.

In another incident, a helicopter fire-response crew had to stop work due to interference from some folks who were off-roading in the backcountry. There also have been reports of tankers unable to fill up from various lakes because of boaters who were in the way.

Late last week, thieves made off with pet food and supplies from the Four Paws Food Bank that has been operating outside the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.

It goes on and on. Early on in his mess, there were reports out of Quesnel of scammers posing as wildlife officials going door-to-door and telling people they had to evacuate.

And, yes, there are countless reports of thoughtless smokers flipping butts out of vehicle windows.

Kevin Skrepnek, the chief fire information officer for the Kamloops area, made the point on CBC-TV early on Saturday that things likely will get worse before they get better. As he pointed out, August is usually the wildfire service’s busiest time of the year.

Allow me to remind you that August isn’t half over. You know what? It can’t snow soon enough.


The Portland Winterhawks are hoping that D Henri Jokiharju will be in their lineup when they open the regular season on Sept. 23 against the host Everett Silvertips.

Failing that, perhaps at the time he’ll be in camp with the Chicago Blackhawks, who selected him in the first round of the NHL’s 2017 draft.

No matter, the Winterhawks hope the Finnish defender will be skating by then.

Jokiharju suffered an injury to his left knee while playing for Team Finland at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich., a week ago. The injury ended his Showcase.

On Saturday night, Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ general manager and head coach, told Taking Note that “we heard four weeks until skating so should be fine.”

The Winterhawks open training camp on Aug. 24, which is slightly more than two weeks away, so it seems unlikely that Jokiharju will be participating, at least in the beginning.

The Blackhawks open camp on Sept. 16, so perhaps he’ll be there, if only for the team’s medical staff to give him a going over.

Jokiharju is heading into his second WHL season, after putting up nine goals and 39 assists in 71 games last season.


F Michael Rasmussen of the Tri-City Americans has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. They selected him with the ninth overall pick of the 2017 NHL draft. . . . The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Rasmussen was limited to 50 games last season after suffering a broken scaphoid in his left wrist. He finished with 32 goals, 15 of them on the PP, and 23 assists. . . . In 114 career games, he has 98 points, including 50 goals. . . . From Surrey, B.C., Rasmussen will be back for a third season with the Americans. He presently is with Team Canada at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich.


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Season-ticket holders with the Spokane Chiefs are being provided with the option of moving their seats in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena with the news that the home and visiting teams are switching player benches. Starting with the upcoming season, the Chiefs will occupy the bench closest to the end that they defend in the first and third periods. . . . The home and visiting penalty benches also will be switched. . . . Season-ticket holders were informed of the changes in a letter from the team dated July 28. . . . “The Western Hockey League has ruled that the Chiefs must move benches,” the letter reads, although it doesn’t say why the WHL office made such a decision. “Everything will stay the same except for the Chiefs’ home bench and which penalty box each team uses. This is not a decision put in place by the Chiefs organization, but imposed by the Western Hockey League.” . . . The WHL may have forced the move in the interests of consistency as it works towards using the same template in all buildings. Of course, that’s impossible in some buildings like Brandon and Swift Current, where the player benches are on opposite sides of the ice. . . . I also heard that Dan Lambert, who is heading into his first season as the Chiefs’ head coach, suggested the change, likely preferring not to be faced with the long change for two periods every home game. Lambert spent six seasons on the Kelowna Rockets’ coaching staff so will be quite familiar with playing in Spokane.


The Lower Mainland of B.C. includes three universities with hockey programs. Until now, the three of them — the Simon Fraser Clan, Trinity Western Spartans and UBC Thunderbirds — have never taken part in the same competition. They will in September when they compete in the inaugural Captains Cup, presented by the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . . The three teams will play a round-robin affair over two weeks. It begins with the Clan and Thunderbirds meeting at UBC on Sept. 15. One night later, the Spartans will play SFU at the Surrey Sport and Leisure Centre. It all ends on Sept. 30 with the Spartans and Thunderbirds meeting at UBC. . . . From a news release: “The goal of the event is to promote university hockey in the Lower Mainland, while also raising awareness for the WHL’s scholarship program, which is available for players entering into post-secondary hockey. . . . Between the three teams, the 28 players on their collective rosters have experience playing in the WHL. This includes 22 players with UBC, four with TWU and two with SFU. Amongst Giants alumni, the T-Birds have four players who spent time in the WHL with Vancouver.” . . . Also from the news release: “UBC enters the competition with a combined record of 9-1 against SFU and TWU. The Thunderbirds only loss against their BCIHL brethren was Jan. 6, 2012 when the Clan earned a 3-1 win. TWU and UBC played each other last year in an exhibition game for the first time ever, with the T-Birds winning 3-2.”


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).


Colin Birkas is the new head coach of the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks. He replaces James Poole, who left to join the coaching staff at the Edge School in Calgary. . . . Birkas has coached at the junior A level for five seasons, all of them in the OJHL. He spent four seasons (2011-15) with the Kingston Voyageurs and last season with the Brockville Braves. All told, he went 201-124-19, reaching four conference finals and winning one conference title.