Friday, July 25, 2014

Tweet! Tweet! Virtanen breaks the news

D Ryan Button (Prince Albert, Seattle, 2007-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL). Last season, with the Texas Stars (AHL), he had three goals in 26 games. He also had 23 points, including seven goals in 26 games with the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL).

1. WHL teams will start training camps in about four weeks time, and the Regina Pats still don’t have a head coach. In fact, they are the only WHL team without a head coach. They are short two assistant coaches, as well. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has the latest right here.
2. The Vancouver Canucks have signed F Jake Virtanen of the Calgary Hitmen to a three-year entry-level contract. Virtanen, from Abbotsford, B.C., was the sixth overall selection in the NHL’s 2014 draft. He had 71 points, including 45 goals, in 71 games with the Hitmen last season, his second in the WHL. The Hitmen selected him with the first overall pick in the 2011 bantam draft. . . . In what surely is a sign of the times, Virtanen broke the news of his signing via his Twitter account.
3. The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Wyatt Sloboshan, 17, to a WHL contract. Sloboshan was a third-round selection by the Swift Current Broncos in the 2012 bantam draft. The Blades acquired him in January as part of a deal in which F Nathan Burns went to Swift Current. From Vanscoy, Sask., Sloboshan had 77 points, including 27 goals, in 45 games with a midget team at the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
4. The Edmonton Oil Kings have added Ryan Marsh to their coaching staff as the lead assistant under head coach Steve Hamilton. Marsh 39, has been an assistant coach with the U of Alberta Golden Bears for the past two seasons and the hockey director for Vimy Ridge Academy for 12 years. . . . Hamilton and Marsh are friends, having coached together with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints and Fort Saskatchewan Traders. They also worked together at Vimy Ridge.
5. Dustin Forbes is the new play-by-play voice of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He takes over from Pat Siedlecki, who lost his spot when CJOC chose not to get involved in bidding for a new contract. . . . The Hurricanes will be heard on Rock 106 when the new season begins. . . . Forbes spent last season with the BCHL’s Cowichan Capitals. He also has done play-by-play for the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves and the junior B Richmond Sockeyes and Comox Valley Glacier Kings.
6. The CFL hit the big time on Friday . . . the really, really big time. carried a story on the goings-on Thursday in Edmonton that culminated Friday morning when Connor Croken, 20, claimed the winnings from the 50-50 draw that was held during the game between the Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders. Croken showed up to let them know the $322,216 was his. He'll be back Tuesday to pick up his cheque. . . . The ESPN piece is right here.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oil Kings sign assistant coach . . . Clouston, Speltz to U-18 team

F Juraj Rožník (Swift Current, Regina, 2010-11) has signed a tryout contract with Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, with Martin (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 10 points, including six goals, in 41 games. . . .
F David Hruška (Red Deer, 1995-96) has signed a one-year contract with Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic, Extraliga) after Karlovy Vary negotiated his release from Orli Znjomo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had 32 points, 18 of them goals, in 52 games. . . .
F Radek Duda (Regina, Lethbridge, 1998-2000) has signed a one-year contract with Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Duda played last season with Plzen (Czech Republic, Extraliga), leading the team in scoring with 41 points, including 17 goals, in 47 games. He was second in the league with 141 penalty minutes. . . .
F Grant Toulmin (Swift Current, 2005-07, 2008-09) has signed a one-year contract with Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with Nipissing University (CIS) in North Bay, Ont., he had 38 points, including 16 goals, in 28 games. . . .
D Kalvin Sagert (Kamloops, Lethbridge, Prince George, 2002-08) has signed a one-year contract with Miskolci Jegesmedvék (Hungary, MOL-Liga). Last season, he had one assist in 11 games with the Wichita Thunder (CHL), 10 assists in 24 games with the San Francisco Bulls (ECHL), and a goal and three assists in 32 games with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL).

1. Ryan Marsh has signed on with the Memorial Cup-champion Edmonton Oil Kings as an assistant coach. Marsh (Tri-City, 1992-95) played four seasons at the U of Alberta in Edmonton before going on to a brief pro career. He has been with Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton for 15 years, the past 10 as campus director. He also was an assistant coach with the U of Alberta Golden Bears. . . . The 39-year-old native of Quesnel, B.C., moves into the spot created when Steve Hamilton was promoted from assistant coach to head coach. Hamilton took over from Derek Laxdal, now the head coach of the AHL’s Texas Stars. . . . Sean Brown also is on the Oil Kings’ staff as an assistant coach.
2. Shaun Clouston, the general manager and head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers, has been added to the coaching staff of the Canadian U-18 team that will play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament next month. . . . Clouston replaces Eric Veilleux, who now is the head coach of the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals. . . . Clouston, 46, has been with the Tigers since 2003-04. He has been the head coach for four seasons and the GM for the past two. . . . At the same time, Tim Speltz, the general manager of the Spokane Chiefs, has been added to the Program of Excellence management group. Speltz, 56, replaces Mark Hunter, the GM of the OHL’s London Knights, who isn’t available for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial. Speltz has been the Chiefs’ GM since 1990. . . . Team Canada’s selection camp is scheduled for Calgary’s Markin MacPhail Centre, Aug. 2-5. There should be 44 players in attendance, with 22 of them going on to play for Canada. The tournament is to run Aug. 11-16 in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.
3. It’s hardly scientific and it’s a far cry from being official, but readers of this blog have spoken. Asked which of three teams should play host to the 2016 Memorial Cup, 47.9 per cent of respondents voted for the Red Deer Rebels. The Victoria Royals drew 34.1 per cent, with the Vancouver Giants at 17.9 per cent. . . . The 2016 Memorial Cup tournament is to be played in a WHL city; those three teams have said they will be involved in the bidding. . . . The Memorial Cup hasn’t been decided in Alberta since 1974 when the Regina Pats won it in the Calgary Corral.
4. F Tim Bozon of the Kootenay Ice, who spent March in a Saskatoon hospital battling Neisseria meningitis, is preparing to play in a competitive game for the first time since Feb. 28. Bozon, 20, will play for France’s U-23 team at a tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic, next week. . . . Tal Pinchevsky of has more right here.
5. Earlier in the week, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada posted his final 30 Thoughts of the season, which means 2013-14 finally is over. Because it was his last post for the season, Friedman actually had at least 54 thoughts. . . . It’s all right here.
6. So there’s this beer league in Buffalo . . . it’s the Performax Hockey League. And when the guys got together the other night, they had a visitor. This guy lit it up for five goals. He also had five assists. Patrick Kane. You may have heard of him. . . . There’s more right here, including a great post-game tweet.
7. Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens has been suspended for, uhh, two games for precipitating an incident of domestic abuse. The disciplinary move has come in for considerable criticism, none of it any harsher than this column right here by Michael Powell of The New York Times.

Alan Caldwell, over at Small Thoughts at Large, tweeted this on Thursday: “The annual WHL prospects postings are coming to the blog soon, likely starting later today.” You will find them on his blog and there’s a link over there on the right. . . . Former Portand Winterhawks D Brad Symes has died in his hometown of Edmonton, where he was a firefighter. He was 38. There is more right here. . . . The Simon Fraser U men’s hockey team will play exhibition road games against the Bowling Green Falcons on Oct. 4 and the Miami U RedHawks on Oct. 5. Those games are scheduled for Bowling Green, Ohio, and Oxford, Ohio.

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Asuchak gets phone call, PTO with Bruins

Spencer Asuchak, shown here with the CHL's Allen Americans, has signed
a PTO with the NHL's Boston Bruins.

(Photo courtesy Spencer Asuchak)

Spencer Asuchak had waited most of his 22-plus years on this earth for THE phone call.
It came last month, and now he’s preparing for a taste of the big time.
After being part of a Central Hockey League championship with the Allen Americans, Asuchak, who is from Kamloops, has signed a PTO (professional tryout agreement) with the Boston Bruins and NHLwill attend the NHL team’s rookie camp in September.
It all began with that phone call. On the other end of the line was Don Sweeney, the Bruins’ assistant general manager.
“It was about how well my season went and how they would like me to come to camp,” Asuchak said. “As you could imagine, I was pretty emotional after receiving a call like that.
“I have been waiting my entire life for an opportunity like this. I feel like I’ve definitely earned it and am going to do absolutely whatever I can to take full advantage of the chance I’m being given to prove myself and earn a spot within the Bruins organization.”
In hockey circles, it often is said that the deeper a team gets into its playoff season, the better chance its players have for advancement. The theory is simply the opposite of out of sight, out of mind.
Asuchak played in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans and Prince George Cougars (2008-12). Late in 2011-12, he got into three games with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, then chose to attend Mount Royal College in Calgary for a year.
Through it all, he wasn’t able to rid himself of the itch to play professionally, so he signed with the Americans, who play out of Allen, Texas.
The 6-foot-5, 232-pound Asuchak has always seen himself as a hockey player. According to his agent, Darren Hermiston of Points West Sports and Entertainment, that wasn’t always the way coaches saw him.
“Spencer is a hulking forward,” Hermiston said, “and, as sometimes happens in junior hockey with players that size, he was pigeon-holed into a specific role -- a north-south winger who needs to hit and fight and not do much else. This role was not ideal for Spencer's skill set, but no junior coach saw that.”
Hermiston, like Asuchak, is from Kamloops. One thing led to another and Hermiston now represents Asuchak.

“We were able to find him a situation with the Allen Americans where the coach (Steve Martinson) loved Spencer's size and skating ability and was willing to gave him a shot,” Hermiston said.
According to Hermiston, Martinson “realized what junior coaches didn't . . . that Spencer and his great skating ability should be given an opportunity at centre and in a different role than the one that hadn’t worked out overly well for the better part of five years.”
Asuchak has always taken pride in his conditioning, so he showed up in Allen ready to go. He did get off to a shaky start -- he had three points and was minus-3 through nine games. But then he was moved to centre and, yes, the move agreed with him. Not only did he begin to put up points, but Martinson turned to him as his club’s shutdown centre.
“He played against the opposition’s top lines and was a first-line penalty-killer,” Hermiston said, “and won 60 per cent of his faceoffs.”
While playing centre, Asuchak put up 53 points in 57 games and was plus-6. He had 18 points over his final nine regular-season games. In all, he had 56 points, 21 of them goals, in 66 games. He also led the CHL with five shorthanded goals and twice was the league’s player of the week.
He added 11 points, four of them goals, as the Americans went on a 17-game run to the CHL title.
“Winning the championship in Allen was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had,” Asuchak said. “So many amazing people and teammates were involved . . . friends and memories I will never forget. Being able to hoist the trophy over my head with a group of guys that you’d do absolutely anything for was amazing and there is no better feeling.”
What made it that much sweeter was that it was Asuchak’s “first championship at any level.”
After giving it some thought, he allowed that “I do think I won a B.C. roller hockey championship when I was about 14 playing for the Prince George Reapers . . . if that counts.”
The exposure that Asuchak received in 2013-14, combined with his size and skating ability, has paid off. The Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks have combined to win the last four NHL titles and the foundation of each of those teams is its strength up the middle.
As Hermiston put it, “every NHL general manager now wants to be ‘big and heavy down the middle.’ ” That is right up Asuchak’s alley.
“So after a few conversations with Don Sweeney, we were able to secure a PTO for Spencer to attend the Bruins’ rookie camp in September with the goal of earning an entry-level contract,” Hermiston said.
Asuchak, who never has been a stranger to off-ice conditioning, now is working hard to get ready for camp, even if it is almost two months away. Like many athletes in the Kamloops area, and as he has done in the past, he is working with Greg Kozoris at Kozoris Acceleration.
If you’re looking for Asuchak, chances are that you’ll find him there. He said his days comprise sprints at 7 a.m., soccer at 8 and then up to three hours of weight training. He does that five or six days a week, and also finds time to skate three or four times a week. On the ice, he has been working with Aaron Konescni, a Kelowna-based power-skating coach; Ron Johnson, a skills coach from Vancouver who works with various NHLers; and former pro Ed Patterson, the head coach of the junior B Kamloops Storm, who runs practice sessions.
Asuchak’s training group includes the likes of the Nash brothers, Brendon and Riley, Shane Doan, the afore-mentioned Blair Riley, Peter Mueller, Tyler Redenbach, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Devin Gannon, James Friedel and Ryan Gropp.
“Our training group is pretty good . . . so the pace is very high and very competitive,” Asuchak said.
In past summers, Asuchak often would find time for the lake and a few golf games.
This summer is different.
“There’s not really much time for anything else,” he said.

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Trotz a family guy, then a coach

Every head coach has an expiry date, especially at the NHL level.
Since the Nashville Predators entered the NHL in 1998-99, they have had only one head coach, Barry Trotz.
He was the longest-tenured head coach with one team, but after Nashville missed the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, management felt it might have a need to go in a different direction.
However, Trotz was given one last shot.
“I talked to David Poile, the general manager, prior to the beginning of the (2013-14) season,” said Trotz, who presented at The Coaches Site's 2014 conference at UBC last weekend. “Depending on what happened, it was likely
going to be my last season with the Predators.”
The Predators failed to get into the playoffs again, and he was indeed relieved of his duties.
“I was in Nashville for 17 years,” Trotz stated. “It's home for me, it's a wonderful city. I worked for David for a long time and it was just time. I've signed one-year deals with them for about eight seasons or so. David and I have a good relationship. Going into last season, I knew that we needed a bounce-back season for the franchise.
“When you're in a non-traditional market, which Nashville still is, you need to have success and be in the playoffs every season. We sold the Shea Weber signing that he was going to be with the team for a long time. But last season, by not making the playoffs, they really didn't have anything to sell. The only thing they could sell was change.”
That change was Peter Laviolette, who was named as Trotz's replacement on May 6.
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals also had failed to reach the playoffs and decided that a shakeup was needed. They chose not to re-sign general manager George McPhee after 17 seasons and also fired head coach Adam Oates.
The Capitals knew what their plan was, as they promoted Brian MacLellan to senior vice-president and general manager on May 26.
As well, they named Trotz their head coach on the same day.
“It was pretty simple for me,” Trotz said. “I started with the Capitals. I actually went to their training camp in 1982 as a player and then was a scout for them and coached in their farm system prior to getting hired by Nashville.
“When I looked at where the Capitals were in terms of the core and age of the
team, I thought that that was pretty intriguing. I thought that there was a lot of talent there, and a team that I felt could do some damage in the future.”
That they do, being led by 28-year-old sniper Alex Ovechkin.
But Trotz's decision to join the Capitals was based on more than the team’s talent and skill levels. It was more than just having connections with Washington.
“Being in the Eastern market was really important to me,” he revealed. “I have a 13-year-old son with Down syndrome. His name is Nolan. We're moving to Arlington, and I really felt that being on the East coast with his siblings working in Nashville and going to school there, it'd really make sense for them to travel.
“Based on our family, one of the things that I always found, and it's a reality of having a child with special needs, is that sometimes you're worried about your child having friends, because sometimes they don't come knocking at the door. So, as parents, we have to facilitate that.
“His siblings love him to death, they have sleepovers with him, all those things. I wanted to be able to be in a position and a city so they could come visit him.”
Trotz has needed to adapt for Nolan. In return, Nolan has helped bring something his father didn't have.
“Anybody with Down syndrome, what I found is that they have an extra gene,” Barry explained. “I think it's 'the love gene.' Before my son was born, I was obviously coaching, and I thought everything I said and everything I did was the most important thing in the world. However, when he was born, I realized that it wasn't. I realized that I needed balance in my life, and he's given me balance.
“So I look at teaching young people with a lot more balance in my life. Because of that, I think I'm a better coach and a better person for it. Nolan's made me a better dad, a better husband, and a better coach.
“My wife and I looked at having a child with special needs as a blessing. Everybody worries about how kids with disabilities can affect their lives, but it's an absolute blessing, and most people don't get that. My wife and I get it. If God decided that he was going to give us a special needs son, we felt honoured that he would pick us.”
Many coaches spend the majority of their time with their team or in an office. For Trotz, Nolan is just as big a priority as anything else.
“It's tough when I'm away from him,” Trotz said. “It's tougher in the Western Conference because the travel is a lot more. That's why you have to have balance. There's times when I know when he's got an event to take part in so I will leave the office early and take my work home to do at night instead of during the office hours.
“He wasn't around the team a lot when I was with the Predators because we practised downtown. After the home games, he was really good. He's done a couple of press conferences with me. A game could go really poorly for me and the team, and I walk down the hall and Nolan would run around and give me a big hug. It puts everything into perspective: we had a bad night, let's get over it, and let's be better the next day. It lets me let go of things.”
And so it is that a new chapter begins for the Trotz family.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mpofu lays down the law . . . Cameron back in coaching game

Some old, some new . . . as I try to catch up after a few days away . . .

F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2010-14) signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL). Last season, with Spokane, he had 23 points, 11 of them goals, in 72 games. He has dual Canadian-German citizenship. . . .
D Petr Šenkeřík (Kootenay, Prince George, 2009-10) signed a tryout contract with Vitkovice Ostrava (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Slavia Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had a goal and two assists in 24 games. In 17 games with Berounští Medvědi (Czech Republic, 1. Liga), he had 11 points, four of them goals. . . .
F Gal Koren (Kelowna, 2010-11) signed a one-year contract with Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, KHL), he had one goal in 23 games. He had four goals and four assists in 15 games with Olimpija Ljubljana, and was pointless in four games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . .
D Dmitri Sinitsyn (Regina, 2013-14) has signed a two-year, two-way contract with Dynamo Moscow (Russia, KHL). Last season, he had 44 points, including 10 goals, in 69 games with Regina. . . .
F Michal Pšurný (Medicine Hat, Kootenay, 2005-06) signed a one-year extension with the Manchester Phoenix (England, Premier). Last season, he led the league in scoring, putting up 99 points, including 45 goals, in 54 games. He was a first-team all-star. . . .
D Jace Coyle (Spokane, Medicine Hat, 2007-11) signed a one-year contract with Aalborg (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). Last season, with the Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL), he had 31 points, including eight goals. He was pointless in three games on loan to the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL). . . .
D Tomáš Troliga (Calgary, 2003-04) signed a tryout contract with Hradec Králové (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 24 points, 13 of them goals, in 46 games.

F Vukie Mpofu, the 87th selection in the WHL’s 2011 bantam draft, has informed the Red Deer Rebels that he won’t be returning for a second season. Mpofu, 18, is a native of Saskatoon, who had 15 points, including nine goals, in 65 games last season.
He has decided to attend the U of Saskatchewan and study business and marketing as he works toward a law degree.
“He called me and told me he’d thought about it all summer and that his goal was to attend law school,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner/GM/head coach, told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate. “He felt it was important for him to start his schooling now (at the U of S) and then in four years enrol in law school in Toronto.”
Sutter told Meachem that he wasn’t surprised to hear from Mpofu.
“I don’t know how driven he was to be a hockey player and I told him that over the phone . . . that if his heart wasn’t in it then it was better to move on to school,” Sutter said. “I kind of had a feeling that something was up at the end of the season. After he got hurt he never had the same drive. His emotion for the game wasn’t the same when he came back and at our year-end meeting I had a feeling he really wasn’t all-in to being a player.”
Mpofu struggled in the second half of the season after returning from a lower-back injury.
 Mpofu told Meachem there wouldn’t be any looking back.
“I’ve had everything I could have ever asked for out of hockey and I’m at a point in my life — now that I’m out of high school — that every decision I make from here on in should be building toward my long-term goals and where I would eventually like to see myself in five to 10 years. That’s pretty much the basis of my decision,” Mpofu said.
“Hockey was a lot of fun for me, but I had to make a decision now for my future.”
And now for some self-promotion . . .
Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, is a friend who writes daily on his blog. He also offers up some recommended readings for his followers.
The other day, he posted this right here:
“Here is one to put on your ‘Wish List’ so that folks can get you a book for your birthday or for Christmas…"
Meanwhile, The Sports Curmudgeon also took time to dissect a claim by someone that the return of LeBron could put $500 million into the Cleveland economy. I always cringe when people, mostly of a political bent, start talking about how much a tournament or an event will mean to a city’s economy because there always seem to be a lot of numbers thrown around without a whole lot of proof. . . . Well, The Sports Curmudgeon explains the whole thing awfully well right here. Give this a read and the next time you hear/read about how much economic benefit there will be from an event coming to your town, you will feel a bit better informed.
The Saskatoon Blades, under relatively new ownership and a freshman GM/head coach in Bob Woods, have realigned their scouting department. Doug Molleken, their head scout, now is director of scouting, eastern region, and will be responsible for Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the U.S. Molleken, 54, has signed a two-year extension. . . . Dan Tencer, 28, has been promoted from regional scout to director of scouting, western region, and will focus on Alberta and B.C. . . . Molleken and Tencer will report to Colin Priestner, the franchise’s managing partner who will oversee the bantam and European drafts. . . . There is more on the Blades’ scouting staff right here.
“Wilfred Rose, 58, spent a career studying the pants pockets of New Yorkers,” writes Joseph Goldstein in The New York Times, “always on the lookout for ‘a nice stiff wallet’ full of cash, or better yet, the fainter outline of a dozen folded bills.” . . . This is the story of a man who may have been the greatest pickpocket in New York City’s history, and you won’t want to miss it. It’s right here.

The Montreal Canadiens have signed F Nikita Scherbak, their first-round pick in the NHL’s 2014 draft, to a three-year, entry-level contract. Scherbak, from Russia, had 78 points, including 28 goals, in 65 games as a freshman with the Saskatoon Blades last season. Under terms of the CBA between the NHL and NHLPA, Scherbak, who doesn’t turn 19 until Dec. 30, has to play with the Canadiens or the Blades in 2014-15. Of course, the Blades could also choose to trade him. . . .
As you will have noticed in The MacBeth Report, D Dmitry Sinitsyn of the Regina Pats has signed with the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow. Sinitsyn, who turned 20 on June 17, may not have returned to the Pats anyway, as the Moscow native would have been a two-spotter -- a 20-year-old and an import. He was a seventh-round pick by the Dallas Stars in the NHL’s 2012 draft. The Pats’ roster also includes German F Maximilian Kammerer, who is preparing for his second WHL season, and Russian D Sergey Zborovsky, who was selected last month in the CHL import draft. . . . Regina finished last season with five other players who could be 20-year-olds on the 2014-15 roster -- F Braden Christoffer, F Patrick D’Amico, G Dawson MacAuley, F Logan McVeigh and F Chandler Stephenson. . . . Another note from The MacBeth Report has F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2011-14) having signed with the Kassel Huskies of the German DEL. Proft, who turns 20 on Aug. 30, had 23 points, 11 of them goals, in 72 games last season with the Chiefs. Other 20-year-olds on Spokane’s roster are F Liam Stewart, F Marcus Messier, F Connor Chartier and D Reid Gow. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks have signed D Brendan De Jong, a seventh-round selection in the 2013 bantam draft out of Victoria. De Jong, 16, had 13 points in 32 games with the Pacific Sea Devils, an elite 15 team at the Pacific Coast Academy.
Malcolm Cameron, who spent last season as head coach of the Regina Pats, now is on staff at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, B.C. Cameron, 44, guided the Pats to WHL East Division regular-season title last season, but was fired by the franchise’s new owners last month. Prior to last season, he was an assistant coach with the Pats for two seasons. . . . Before joining the Pats, Cameron was an ECHL head coach for eight season. . . .

ECHLJean-François (J.F.) Houle is the new head coach of the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors, who are owned by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. He takes over from Troy Mann, now the head coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears. . . . For the past three seasons, Houle, 39, has been head coach of the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. . . . He is the son of former Montreal Canadiens F Réjean Houle. . . . The Armada is working on finding a new head coach. . . .

The QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar is looking for a head coach after Eric Veilleux left to become head coach of the Norfolk Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. Veilleux, who had been with the Drakkar for two seasons, replaces Trent Yawney, who now is an assistant coach with the Ducks. The Drakkar reached the QMJHL final in each of Veilleux’s seasons. . . .

The Saskatoon Blades have added Shane Endicott (Seattle, 1997-2001) to their staff as the franchise’s first skills coach. Endicott, who is from Saskatoon, spent six seasons in the AHL after being the Pittsburgh Penguins selected him 52nd overall in the NHL’s 2000 draft. He retired after playing in Europe and opened On Ice Connections in Saskatoon. Last season, he helped the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s team to its first conference title. . . .

BCHLKevin Kraus (Kamloops, Tri-City, 2006-08) is returning to Vernon as an assistant coach with the BCHL’s Vipers. He will work alongside GM/head coach Jason Williamson. A defenceman from Garden Grove, Calif., Kraus played 130 regular-season and 44 playoff games with the Vipers, helping them to two national championships. Kraus, 24, spent last season as an assistant coach with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. With the Vipers, he replaces Kris Mallette, now an assistant coach with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. . . .

Kim Dillabaugh has left the Kelowna Rockets after 11 seasons as their goaltending coach. Dillabaugh is moving on to work full-time with the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings. While working with the Rockets, he also has helped the Kings for the past eight seasons in the area of goaltending development. He will continue in that area with the Kings, but now also will scout for them. The Rockets plan is to hire a goaltending coach to replace Dillabaugh.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, writing about LeBron James and his pursuit of Michael Jordan’s legend: “Michael Jordan and the Bulls went to the NBA Finals six times. The Bulls won all six of those series AND Michael Jordan was the MVP of the finals all six times. The simple fact is that James cannot meet let alone exceed that standard. James and his teams (Cavs and Heat) have been to the Finals five times. The Cavs/Heat have only won two of those five series. It would seem to me that the only way to exceed 6-for-6 would be to go 7-for-7. That is mathematically impossible.” . . . If you missed it Friday night, the host Ottawa Redblacks got past the Toronto Bluewhites, 18-17, in CFL action. . . .

I always wonder how they figure out these things, but some economists have done the calculations and decided that LeBron’s return to the Cleveland Cavaliers will benefit the local economy to the tune of $500 million. “More importantly for James,” writes Ian Hamilton of the Regina Leader-Post, “it will inject $21 million a year into his economy.” . . . Babe Ruth’s 1918 contract with the Boston Red Sox sold for $1.02 million the other day. “Out of force of habit,” reports Hamilton, “the Yankees bought it.” . . . Headline at Local soccer bar back to just being an Irish pub again. . . .

“Did you see the new rule for the next America’s Cup?” asks Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Seriously. The defending champion U.S. team will be allowed a backup boat, but the challenger teams will not. That’s like a World Series where only one team is allowed to have a bullpen.” . . . “Johnny Manziel might be second string in Cleveland,” notes Ostler, “but he’s a starter in Las Vegas, baby. Just before reporting to the Browns, Johnny Football was seen spraying Champagne on Vegas nightclub patrons. How many rookies are willing to put in the time practicing Super Bowl celebrations?” . . .

How bad was the smoke in the Kamloops area on Wednesday? My lungs thought they were smoking Export A’s for the first time since, well, 2003 when the hills around here were aflame. . . . So some guy in the Seattle area was really fed up with this spider he had noticed in his home. So he pulled out a can of spray paint and a cigarette lighter. Before he was done, he had caused $60,000 in fire damage to his home. . . . Gotta wonder when his spidey senses kicked in and told him it was hot in there. . . . No word on whether the spider survived. . . . “And once again,” wrote Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, “somewhere Darwin is saying, ‘Missed it by that much.’ ” . . .

A question from Hough: “Who's done the better acting job in last month? The floppers of the World Cup or the millions of Americans who pretended to care about soccer?” . . . During Tuesday’s MLB All-Star game, this tweet was sent out by @CBSNews: “Michael Jeter takes bow at his final All-Star game.” To which Hough responded: “Wonder if Michael’s brother is any good?” . . . I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a problem with NL starter Adam Wainwright putting a fastball on a tee for AL shortstop Derek Jeter in the All-Star Game. . . . But I still have a problem with MLB using the All-Star Game to determine home-field advantage in the World Series. . . . Because of that, baseball still will be talking about that one pitch during the October-November Classic. . . . Contributor Bill Littlejohn says he’s heard that Wainwright’s “new walk-up music just became ‘Groovin’ on a Sunday Afternoon’ ” . . . In case you missed it, Lindsey Vonn and Roger Federer played some tennis the other day, atop a glacier in the Swiss Alps. “Federer was supposed to play Maria Sharapova,” noted Littlejohn, “but officials worried her grunting could have triggered an avalanche.” . . .

Mike Lupica, in The New York Daily News: “A friend of mine said that it might take Heat fans, as casual as they are about when they show up for games, until the middle of November to notice that LeBron is actually gone. And that’s without traffic.” . . . If you’re looking for a good read, you can’t go wrong with Up, Up & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. If you were a fan of the Expos, author Jonah Keri will put you through an emotional wringer, especially when he reminds you how close this team came to being -- dare we say it? -- a dynasty. . . .

How loud was the celebration in Germany after the World Cup? “It was so noisy in Berlin,” reports comedy writer Alan Ray, “the CIA could barely hear to eavesdrop.” . . . “Russia is hosting the next World Cup,” notes syndicated columnist Norman Chad. “Of course, by 2018 the Russian empire could extend west to Poland and east to Alaska, so host cities are up in the air. Warsaw and Anchorage should be on high alert!” . . . Last weekend in sports is wrapped up by NBC’s Seth Meyers: “LeBron went back to being a Cavalier, Carmelo went back to being a Knick, and soccer went back to being a thing you drive your kids to.” . . . “So, hot-dog eating champ Joey Chestnut is about to be married?” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Our condiments to the bride.”

(Gregg Drinnan is a former sports editor of the Regina Leader-Post and the late Kamloops Daily News. He is at and Keeping Score appears here on weekends, except when it doesn’t.)

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Warriors post profit despite decrease in ticket sales

Despite a $128,446 decrease in revenue from ticket sales and corporate boxes, the Moose Jaw Warriors reported a net profit of $61,566 for 2013-14 at their annual general meeting on Thursday night.
In a season in which 19 of the WHL’s 22 teams suffered a decrease in attendance, the Warriors’ total fell by 8,916, dropping the per-game average to 3,613 from 3,860.
Last season was the third for the Warriors in their new arena, the 4,414-seat Mosaic Place having opened prior to 2011-12. In their first season in the new building, the Warriors drew 140,313 fans, an average of 3,898 per game.
One year ago, the Warriors, a community-owned organization, reported a net profit of $343,890.
“I'm happy,” team president Chad Taylor told reporters. “We're keeping our costs in line, we offer a fair value for ticket prices and, at the end of the day, we want to make sure everyone has a good time, but we need to be profitable and we need to have money in the bank.”
The Warriors, who didn’t make the playoffs in either of the last two seasons, introduced Tim Hunter as their new head coach earlier Thursday. He replaces Mike Stothers, who left to become head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
“We lost a lot of revenue off of walk-up tickets this year and when you have a poorer team on the ice, the fan base isn't going to come support you and we understand that and we were prepared,” Taylor said. “The nice thing is we had enough revenue to cover off the expenses and keep the club healthy.”
The Warriors also are in a situation where they pledged $2 million for the construction of Mosaic Place. They paid another $200,000 on that last season. In fact, the Warriors, in total, paid Mosaic Place $777,282, a sum that included revenue sharing and the pledge.
For more, see Marc Smith’s story for that is right here.
Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has a story on the meeting right here.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Warriors, Giants sign head coaches . . . Two others on vacation!

D Ivan Baranka (Everett, 2003-05) has signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). Last season, with Avangard Omsk (Russia, KHL), he had 20 points, 19 of them assists, in 47 games. . . .

DELF Dylan Wruck (Edmonton, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL). Last season, Wruck had six points, including four goals, in three games with the Ontario Reign (ECHL). He missed most of the season due to injury. Wruck has dual Canadian-German citizenship. . . .

D Sam Klassen (Saskatoon, 2006-10) has signed a one-year contract with the Hamburg Freezers (Germany, DEL). He has dual Canadian-German citizenship. Last season, he had 10 points, one of them a goal, with the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL), a goal and an assist in nine games with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL), and one assist in 10 games with the Portland Pirates (AHL). . . .

F Jaroslav Obšut (Swift Current, Medicine Hat, Edmonton Ice, 1995-97) has signed a one-year contract with Corona Brasov (Romania, MOL Liga). Last season, with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 15 points, including six goals, in 24 games. . . .

F Tyler Beechey (Edmonton/Kootenay, Calgary, 1997-2002) has signed a two-year contract with the Krefeld Pinguine (Germany, DEL). Last season, with the Schwenninger Wild Wings (Germany, DEL), he had 37 points, 12 of them goals, in 49 games.

1. The Moose Jaw Warriors introduced Tim Hunter as their newest head coach on Thursday morning. Hunter, the 16th head coach in Warriors’ history, replaces Mike Stothers, who now is the head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs. . . . The 53-year-old Hunter, who has coaching experience as an NHL assistant with the Washington Capitals (1997-2002, 2012-13), San Jose Sharks (2002-08) and Toronto Maple Leafs (2008-11), has been living in Calgary, working for the Calgary Flames and the Flames Alumni. . . . The Calgary native played in the WHL with the Seattle Breakers (1977-80), before going to an 18-year pro career that included 815 NHL games. . . . Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald reports that general manager Alan Millar “spoke to Hunter on the phone on multiple occasions and then flew to Vancouver Sunday to meet with him in person. The pair talked for more than three hours and that meeting left little doubt in Millar's mind that Hunter was the right man to replace Mike Stothers behind the Warriors bench.” . . . Millar told Goulie: "I felt that there was a connection in terms of philosophically how we want to play the game and what is important to us in managing and coaching a WHL team. But more importantly how we were going to treat our players and how we were going to care for them on and off the ice." . . . Hunter takes over a team that has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons. . . . Gourlie’s story is right here.

2. The Vancouver Giants introduced Troy Ward as the fourth head coach in franchise history on Thursday morning. Ward, 52, takes over from Don Hay, who left after 10 seasons as head coach and now is the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers. . . . Ward, who is reported to have signed a three-year contract, spent the last three seasons as head coach of the Abbotsford Heat, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. . . . Ward is a native of St. Paul, Minn. . . . Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province has more right here.

3. There now is just one WHL team without a head coach. The Regina Pats are looking for a head coach and two assistant coaches. The franchise’s new owners fired head coach Malcolm Cameron last month, while assistant coaches Josh Dixon and Billy McGuigan resigned earlier in the month. . . . Here’s a look at the nine teams with new head coaches, showing team, new coach and previous coach:
Calgary Hitmen: Mark French, Mike Williamson.
Edmonton Oil Kings: Steve Hamilton, Derek Laxdal.
Kamloops Blazers: Don Hay, Guy Charron.
Kelowna Rockets: Dan Lambert, Ryan Huska.
Moose Jaw Warriors: Tim Hunter, Mike Stothers.
Portland Winterhawks: Jamie Kompon, Mike Johnston.
Saskatoon Blades: Bob Woods, Dave Struch.
Tri-City Americans: Mike Williamson, Jim Hiller.
Vancouver Giants: Troy Ward, Don Hay.
I still find it interesting that by the time Regina hires a head coach, there will have been 10 changes and only two teams -- Edmonton and Kelowna -- will have promoted form within.

4. As for the remainder of the teams, just in case you have forgotten, here’s a look at who their head coaches are:
Brandon Wheat Kings: Kelly McCrimmon (owner/GM/head coach).
Everett Silvertips: Kevin Constantine (preparing for second season in his reincarnation as head coach here).
Kootenay Ice: Ryan McGill (entering final year of three-year contract).
Lethbridge Hurricanes: Drake Berehowsky (entering second year of three-year contract).
Medicine Hat Tigers: Shaun Clouston (also GM).
Prince Albert Raiders: Cory Clouston (entering second year of two-year deal; club has option on a third year).
Prince George Cougars: Mark Holick (signed through 2017-18).
Red Deer Rebels: Brent Sutter (owner/GM/head coach).
Seattle Thunderbirds: Steve Konowalchuk (signed through 2017-18).
Spokane Chiefs: Don Nachbaur (signed through 2016-17).
Swift Current Broncos: Mark Lamb (also GM; entering last year of three-year contract).
Victoria Royals: Dave Lowry (preparing for third season).

5. The Vancouver Giants have extended their partnership with TEAM Radio through 2017-18. All regular-season and playoff games will be heard on TEAM 1040 and TEAM 1410. . . . TEAM Radio also is home to the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, the CFL’s BC Lions, the MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the NWL’s Vancouver Canadians. . . . The Giants also announced that Brendan Batchelor will return for a second season as the play-by-play voice, alongside analyst Bill Wilms. Batchelor also has been named the club’s director of media relations.

6. The Everett Silvertips have signed F Bryce Kindopp, who was selected in the third round of the 2014 WHL bantam draft. The Silvertips made 15 selections in that draft; Kindopp is the first player to sign. . . . From Lloydminster, Alta., Kindopp helped his hometown Heat win the 2014 Alberta Major Bantam League championship. . . . In 33 regular-season games, Kindopp had 63 points, including 26 goals. He led the league’s playoff scoring derby with 16 goals and finished second in points, with 25. . . . Everett selected Heat captain Jantzen Leslie in the first round of the 2014 bantam draft. . . .

7. There isn’t much doubt which team D Dalton Yorke of the Kelowna Rockets was cheering for in Sunday’s World Cup final. Yorke, an 18-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C., would have been solidly in Germany’s corner. Why? Because his sister, Montana, 21, is an item with German forward André Schürrle, who assisted on the winning goal, an extra-time score that gave his side a 1-0 victory over Argentina. . . . Jennifer Saltman of the Vancouver Province has more on the happy couple right here.

8. They’ll be talking hockey tonight at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert as the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame holds its 2014 induction ceremony. Included in the class of 2014 are Bruce Clements, Emile (The Cat) Francis, Johnny Gottselig, Wayne Kartusch, Brad McCrimmon, Jim Neilson, Brian Propp, Terry Simpson and Wes Smith. Also going in are the 1982 Prince Albert Raiders and the 1972 Rosetown Redwings. . . . The Prince Albert Daily Herald has more right here.

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