Scattershooting and channel surfing … MJHL coach puts up 500th win … Ferguson returning to Blazers … Broncos captain gets NHL deal

Ahh, this will be a glorious Thursday night. There are five TSN channels and Gary Bettman’s NHL has games on four of them.

Let’s watch the Arizona Coyotes against the Canadiens in Montreal. Maybe we’ll see how it is that the Coyotes have opened without a regulation victory in about 100 games. . . . Whoops! Blacked out.

Well, let’s move on to the next channel where the Winnipeg Jets are entertaining the Philadelphia Flyers. Let’s watch as F Nolan Patrick returns to the Flyers’ lineup after missing nine games with a concussion, and he does it in his hometown. . . . Whoops! Blacked out.

Oh well, there’s always the next channel where the New Jersey Devils are visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs. These aren’t your father’s Devils, you know. They don’t trap. Rather, they fly around the ice with the purpose of scoring goals. This one could be fun. . . . Whoops! Blacked out.

And it’s on to the fourth TSN channel, where the Pittsburgh Penguins are visiting the Ottawa Senators. Hey, it’s always fun to watch Sid Who Used To Be A Kid. . . . But not tonight. You guess it. Blacked out.

Thanks, Mr. Bettman.


What about that fifth TSN channel. Yes, it’s on to the NFL where the Tennessee Titans are visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers. . . . Thanks again, Mr. Bettman. You’re really doing a good job of selling the, uhh, NFL.


Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Red Deer Rebels, remembers when his off-season training spot was a barn in which there was a heavy bag, a speed bag, some weights and a couple of bikes. Last summer, he did Pilates. Why? Because he wanted to experience what his players were doing. It’s all part of an attempt to cut down on injuries by improving flexibility and core strength.


When this WHL season began, Don Hay, now with the Kamloops Blazers, had 720 WHL head-coaching regular-season victories, meaning he needed 23 more to break Ken Hodge’s career record of 742. The Blazers have won seven of their first 20 games, meaning they are on pace for 25 victories this season.


Hey, there’s an NHL game on one of Sportsnet’s umpteen channels. It’s the St. Louis Blues in Edmonton against the Oilers. Always fun to watch McDavid and Draisaitl, even if we have to put up with Sportsnet’s computer-generated ads plastered all over the glass. . . . Oh wait. It’s blacked out.


After the Carolina Panthers dealt wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills, quarterback Cam Newton offered this analysis: “Yeah, we just lost a great player, but the Titanic still has to go.” . . . To which Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times responded: “Considering it’s Carolina’s less-than-stellar aerial game, shouldn’t it be the Hindenburg?”


“Twitter has increased the number of characters allowed per tweet from 140 to 280,” notes blogger Tony Chong of Richmond, B.C. “So isn’t that considered an email?” 


Hey, we found another NHL game on Sportsnet as the Vegas Golden Knights visit the Vancouver Canucks. Ahh, no blackout. Might check it out after the football game. Or earlier, if it’s a blowout.


By now you are aware that Dylan Ferguson of the Kamloops Blazers has been the Golden Knights’ backup goaltender since Oct. 30. He has been responsible for more publicity for Kamloops and the Blazers over the past couple of weeks than was generated when J-Lo, Morgan Freeman and Robert Redford were in the area to film An Unfinished Life.


Don’t discount the Vancouver Giants in the WHL’s Western Conference this season. The key, of course, is that F Tyler Benson has to stay healthy, something that hasn’t happened in either of the past two seasons. With Benson, head coach Jason McKee’s guys have two terrific forward lines. If the goaltending holds up, the Giants could make some noise.



Congratulations to Ken Pearson, the head coach of the MJHL’s Winkler Flyers.

KEN PEARSON

When the Flyers beat the host Steinbach Pistons 3-2 in OT on Wednesday night, Pearson chalked up his 500th regular-season victory as an MJHL head coach.

Pearson has made more than a handful of stops during his coaching career, including stints with the Neepawa Natives, Prince Albert Raiders, Brooks Bandits, Winnipeg South Blues and Battlefords North Stars. He has scouted for the Tri-City Americans and NHL Central Scouting.

All told, Pearson is in his 12th season behind the Flyers’ bench.

Pearson’s 500 regular-season victories are third on the MJHL’s all-time list, behind Doug Stokes (670) and Don MacGillivray (669). In the MJHL, Stokes coached the Kildonan North Stars, Winnipeg South Blues, Dauphin Kings, Selkirk Steelers and Winnipeg Saints. MacGillivray, now an assistant coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings, coached with the St. James Canadians, Southeast Blades, Neepawa Natives, Portage Terriers, Winnipeg South Blues and Winnipeg Blues.

Pearson’s Flyers go into this weekend at 16-6-0, tied for second in the 11-team league with the OCN Blizzard (15-5-2). Both teams are one point behind Steinbach (16-4-1).


The Calgary Flames have signed F Glenn Gawdin, the captain of the Swift Current Broncos, to a three-year entry-level NHL contract. Gawdin, 20, was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 2015 NHL draft, but wasn’t signed by them. He was eligible for the 2017 draft, but wasn’t selected. Gawdin, from Richmond, B.C., was in the Flames’ training camp prior to this season as a free agent. . . . This season, Gawdin has 40 points, including 14 goals, in 18 games and his third in the WHL scoring race, behind line mates Tyler Steenbergen, who has 49 points, and Aleksi Heponiemo (48). . . . Gawdin was the fifth overall selection in the WHL’s 2012 bantam draft. In 263 games with the Broncos, he has 228 points, including 84 goals.


Taylor Shire, who works in TV at Global Regina, tweeted on Thursday: “Tickets for the Regina Pats outdoor game at Mosaic Stadium will range from $149, $219 or $319 per seat. They also have standing room only for $75. Includes Sat and Sun games.”

Among the replies to that tweet:

“Wow, those are some big numbers. Out of my price range so I won’t be joining the regiment for this game.”

“Does this include a signed Jordan Eberle jersey, beer, hand warmers and a hot dog?”

“For a dub game give your head a shake Regina.”

Meanwhile, on Dec. 17, the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s are going to face the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques at The Stadium at TD Place, the home of the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks.

A general admission ticket will set you back $15, with reserved seats going for $20 each. Those prices include all taxes and surcharges, along with transportation to the game.


F Josh Prokop revealed via Twitter on Thursday that he has made a commitment to attend Ohio State and play hockey for the Buckeyes. Prokop, 17, is from Edmonton. He was a fifth-round selection by the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. This season, Prokop has 14 points, eight of them goals, in 25 games with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. . . . Last season, he put up a CSSHL-leading 57 points, including 29 goals, in 30 games with the Northern Alberta X-Treme.


The Vegas Golden Knights flew out of Vancouver and headed home late Thursday night after posting a 5-2 victory over the Canucks.

Yes, G Dylan Ferguson of the Kamloops Blazers wasn’t on the plane and is to return to Kamloops today (Friday).

Ferguson, 19, was on the bench for an eighth straight game in support of starter Maxime Lagace last night. Ferguson had made his NHL debut during Tuesday’s 8-2 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton. He played 9:14 and stopped one of the two shots he faced.

Ferguson is from Lantzville, which is on Vancouver Island, so you know he had some supporters in the crowd last night. But they had to be content with watching him in the pregame warmup.

The Golden Knights have three goaltenders out with injuries, although one of them, Malcom Subban, has returned to practice. Subban, who was in Vancouver yesterday and watched the game from the press box, seems  ready to return, at least in a backup role. Starter Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and Oscar Dansk, who was injured on Oct. 30 and whose injury resulted in the phone call to Ferguson, also are injured.

The Golden Knights are next scheduled to play on Sunday against the visiting Los Angeles Kings.

Ferguson will rejoin the Blazers in time for two weekend home games, with the Vancouver Giants in town tonight and the Lethbridge Hurricanes following on Saturday.

The Blazers were 3-2-0 while Ferguson was with Vegas. Max Palaga, 17, who has been backing up Ferguson, made three starts, while Dylan Garand, a 15-year-old from the Delta Hockey Academy, was 1-1-0 in his two starts.


The political scene the U.S. is in upheaval due to, among other things, an investigation into whether Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, had its hands in the 2016 election. A short time ago, F Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals’ starry Russian, waded into the mess by creating something that he, or somebody, has dubbed “Putin’s Team.” . . . So just what is that all about? And why would Ovechkin get involved in something like that at this particular point in time? . . . Matt Flegenheimer of The New York Times takes a look right here.


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!


D Montana Onyebuchi of the Everett Silvertips won’t play tonight against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds as he serves a one-game WHL suspension. That comes after he took a charging major and game misconduct during a 2-0 victory over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on Wednesday night.


Colin Birkas is out as head coach of the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks, and has been replaced, at least on an interim basis, by Darryl Olsen. . . . Birkas had been head coach since Aug. 11. He replaced James Poole, who resigned earlier in the summer after one season in the position. . . . Birkas had coached junior A in Ontario before signing with the Canucks. . . . A Calgarian, Olsen stepped up from assistant coach to take over as head coach of the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons late last season. . . . The Canucks are 10-12-1 and in fifth place in the eight-team Viterra AJHL South.


What does a fired coach do with his time when there isn’t hockey? Here’s Casey O’Brien, who was dismissed by the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers on Oct. 31 . . .


THURSDAY:

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Calgary at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.

Brandon at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Swift Current at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.

Red Deer vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.

Edmonton at Prince George, 7 p.m.

Vancouver at Kamloops, 7 p.m.

Lethbridge at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.

Prince Albert vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.

Victoria at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.

Seattle at Everett, 7:35 p.m.


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).


Four games cut from WHL sked … Blazers, Ferguson searching for answers … Outdoor game confirmed


The WHL’s board of governors caught observers by surprise on Thursday when it was announced that they voted Wednesday at a meeting in Calgary to knock four games off the regular-season schedule starting next season.

WHL teams have played a 72-game schedule since 1975-76.

The move will reduce each team’s schedule to 68 games, the same as in the OHL and QMJHL.

From a WHL news release: “Playing four less games during the regular season will serve to reduce travel and balance the schedule while providing more time for players to focus on training and skill development, as well as their academic studies.”

The WHL has yet to reveal how it plans on using this move to help it “balance the schedule.”

I would suggest that most, if not all, of the dropped games would have been scheduled during the week. Hopefully a 68-game schedule will mean fewer situations in which teams have to play four games in five nights or three in fewer than 48 hours on weekends.

Hopefully, too, this will mean the end of Ron Robison, the commissioner of the WHL, telling us that the sky is falling.

Ever since a class-action lawsuit was filed against the WHL asking that its Canadian teams be forced to pay minimum wage to its players, Robison has been telling people that as many as one-third of the 22 franchises will fold should the league lose in court.

Most recently, he delivered that message to people at the Moose Jaw Warriors’ annual general meeting in September.

In June, Robison issued a statement that read, in part: “If WHL clubs were required to provide minimum wage, in addition to the benefits the players currently receive, the majority of our teams would not be in a position to continue operating.”

The majority, of course, would be more than 11 teams, so at least he has backed off a bit of late.

However, Robison has yet to provide any evidence publicly that would back up his claim, and I would suggest there isn’t any evidence to suggest that teams would fold.

Until now, when discussion turned to a potential shortening of the regular season, the No. 1 reason provided for it not being viable was a reluctance by owners to give up gates; they simply couldn’t afford to lose the revenues from those two home games.

It would seem that is no longer the case.

Look, major junior hockey, especially in the WHL, is too big a business for owners to be walking away from it over something like having to pay minimum wage to its employees, er, student athletes.

If things were looking that gloomy, why would Winnipeggers Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell purchase the Kootenay Ice from the Chynoweth family last spring for what is believed to be about Cdn$7 million?

If the sky really is falling, why would brothers Dan and Lindsey Lickelt agree to purchase the Seattle Thunderbirds, the reigning WHL champions? I have no idea what the purchase price might me, but someone familiar with things at the ownership level has suggested to me that it might be between US$11 million and $12 million. (At Thursday’s exchange rate, that would be between Cdn$13.8 million and $15 million.)

Meanwhile, there are four community-owned teams in the WHL, each of which holds an annual general meeting and makes its profit/loss statement public.

The Prince Albert Raiders, who didn’t make the playoffs last season, lost $250,849 in 2016-17, which is approximately what they made the previous season. They generated more than $122,181 in revenue by making the playoffs in 2015-16.

Last month, the Moose Jaw Warriors announced a loss of $463,566 for 2016-17, but that included the $200,000 they paid as part of a pledge they made that helped Mosaic Place get built. The Warriors also put $531,197 into Mosaic Place upgrades, mostly in the areas of sound and lighting. Shareholders were told that the franchise’s bank balance is $1,081,545.01.

Meanwhile, the Lethbridge Hurricanes turned a profit of $737,710 in 2016-17. After the 2014-15 season, the Hurricanes were more than $700,000 in debt, a figure that was reduced by about $300,000 going into last season. Now, as this season begins, they have more than $320,000 in the bank.

The Swift Current Broncos, the fourth community-owned team, reported a profit of $135,922 for the 2016-17 season. That was helped along by six home playoff games.

The Broncos showed a profit of $133,465 for 2014-15 and $140,000 for 2015-16.

Keep in mind, too, that WHL teams share in revenues from events like the World Junior Championship and the Memorial Cup, when the latter is held in a western city. In 2015-16, the Broncos turned a $90,000 deficit into a $140,000 profit due to revenues from the Memorial Cup and the women’s world curling championship, which was held in Swift Current.

Still, if it is possible for community-owned teams to do this kind of business, why would anyone bail, even if there comes a day when they have to pay minimum wage?

If it is possible for community-owned teams to do this kind of business, you have to wonder what’s going on with the privately owned teams.


The Kamloops Blazers appear to have been in violation of the WHL’s rule regarding the post-game availability of players to the media following a 6-2 loss to the visiting Prince George Cougars on Wednesday night.

After the game, goaltending coach Dan De Palma informed the media that G Dylan Ferguson, 19, wasn’t going to be made available. Ferguson, in his first season as the Blazers’ starter allowed six goals on 22 shots and was lifted at 8:26 of the second period.

According to the WHL’s media policy:

“All players requested for post-game interviews must be available . . . within 15 minutes following leaving the ice at the conclusion of the game. Should a player be injured or receiving medical treatment following the game, he will not be required to participate in the interview.”

Ferguson wasn’t injured during the game, other than his pride, that is.

Ferguson’s woes — he is 0-5-0, 6.54, .828 in 248 minutes — are representative of what the Blazers are experiencing early in this season. At 0-6-0, they have equalled the poorest start in franchise history, that from 2015-16.

You can bet that Ferguson is feeling a lot of internal pressure, especially after so many positive things happened in his life this summer.

After spending his first two WHL seasons as a backup, he was selected by the Dallas Stars in the NHL’s 2017 draft and almost immediately dealt to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Ferguson attended their development camp, their rookie camp and their main camp. Before returning to Kamloops, he signed a three-year entry-level contract calling for base salaries of US$650,000, $650,000 and $700,000, a minor-league salary of $60,000, and three annual $50,000 signing bonuses.

But now things have gone south and you can bet his head is spinning. But he’s young and he’ll snap out of this slump. Of course, he’ll have help, too. De Palma, in his 10th season with the Blazers, is one of the game’s best-kept secrets when it comes to coaching goaltenders. As well, head coach Don Hay knows his way around the game.

But the slow start isn’t all Ferguson. His teammates weren’t good against the Cougars, who, despite having been on the road for a week, had more energy and won all the one-on-one battles when it mattered.

It isn’t going to get any easier for the Blazers, either, as the Victoria Royals are in Kamloops tonight. The Royals are 5-0-0 and coming off an eye-popping 8-3 victory over the host Kelowna Royals on Wednesday night.

Oh, and did we mention that the Royals are expected to welcome back two key veterans — F Tyler Soy and D Chaz Reddekopp — in time for tonight’s game.

The rich get richer and all that.


A news conference is to be held in Regina today at which details of an outdoor game — Moose Jaw Warriors vs. the Pats, Feb. 18, at 33,350-seat Mosaic Stadium — will be announced. . . . This confirms what Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet reported on Sept. 21, although the sentence that he wrote on the game later disappeared from his piece. . . . Greg Harder of The Leader-Post reported Thursday evening that “according to sources, the WHL contest will be just one element in a larger weekend extravaganza that also includes an NHL/WHL alumni game at the stadium.” . . . Harder also reported: “The Pats originally proposed an outdoor game as part of their Memorial Cup bid. Although the Canadian Hockey League declined to consider the game in its final selection process, the Pats moved forward with their plans for an outdoor game as part of the centennial celebration.” . . . The Pats will be the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup. . . . WHL teams have played in two outdoor games. The Pats beat the host Calgary Hitmen, 3-2, before 20,888 fans at McMahon Stadium on Feb. 21, 2011. That is the CHL’s single-game attendance record. . . . On Jan. 15, 2011, the host Spokane Chiefs beat the Kootenay Ice, 11-2, in front of 7,075 fans at Avista Stadium, the home of baseball’s Spokane Indians.


The BCHL’s Penticton Vees announced Thursday that they have received a commitment from F Cole Shepard for next season. Shepard, 15, is from West Vancouver and attends the Delta Hockey Academy. Last season, he had 19 goals and 28 assists in 30 games with the bantam prep team. This season, he has 10 points, three of them goals, in seven games with the varsity squad. . . . He was selected by the Vancouver Giants in the second round of the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. He is the younger brother of F Jackson Shepard, who plays for the Kamloops Blazers.


The Prince George Cougars have released D Peter Kope, 18, from their roster. A fifth-round selection in the 2014 WHL bantam draft, he didn’t get into any of their first five regular-season games. Hope is expected to join the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. . . . The Cougars now are carrying 26 players, including three goaltenders and 15 forwards.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes juggled their goaltending in behind starter Stuart Skinner on Thursday, dropping Adam Swan, 17, from their roster and bringing in Reece Klassen, 18. Swan, from Ashern, Man., was an 11th-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. Swan, who didn’t get into a regular-season game, will join the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues. . . . Klassen, who is from Cloverdale, B.C., was with the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats. In five games there, he was 2-2-0, 2.67, .920.


The Moose Jaw Warriors have added D Daemon Hunt, a first-round selection in the 2017 bantam draft, to their roster for this weekend’s games.  Hunt, 15, has two assists in two games with the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings. He is from Brandon. . . . The Warriors have three defencemen — Josh Brook, Chase Hartje and Colin Paradis — on the injured list. Only Hartje is day-to-day.


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!


THURSDAY:

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Brandon at Edmonton, 7 p.m.

Everett at Calgary, 7 p.m.

Prince Albert at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.

Kootenay at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.

Swift Current at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Regina at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.

Kelowna at Prince George, 7 p.m.

Victoria at Kamloops, 7 p.m.

Portland at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.

Tri-City vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7:30 p.m.


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).