I received an interesting email on Thursday from an avid WHL follower.
He wrote: “I thought it would be interesting to see where the players are from in the final four (not including Euros).”
So it was that he went over the rosters of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Calgary Hitmen, Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants. And he found that there are 26 players left from Manitoba, 25 from Alberta, 24 from B.C., and 12 from Saskatchewan. . . . Perhaps surprisingly he also noted that there is only one American player listed on the rosters of the four surviving teams. That would be F J.T. Barnett of the Vancouver Giants, who lists Scottsdale, Ariz., as his hometown. . . . Barnett, it should be noted, may well be finished for the season. He suffered a shoulder injury in the Giants‘ second-round victory over the Portland Winterhawks and I‘m told that he is out week-to-week as opposed to day-to-day. . . .
The WHL has revealed the names of its conference players of the year, with F Craig Cunningham of the Vancouver Giants taking the honours in the West and F Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats in the East. . . . Winners of various awards will be unveiled Wednesday at the WHL luncheon in Edmonton. . . . Eberle, who finished up his season with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons, is expected to play for Team Canada at the world championship in Germany next month.
The NHL’s Minnesota Wild announced Thursday that Kevin Constantine won’t be back as head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros. After making the playoffs each of his first two seasons as head coach, the Aeros didn’t make it this season as they went 34-34-7-5. Constantine, 51, went 117-94-11-18 with the Aeros. . . . Constantine is a former head coach of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips.
The BCHL’s Surrey Eagles have new owners and one of them is former Portland Winterhawks D Gary Nylund. That story is right here.
Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has written a couple of stories for Friday’s paper on the management situation with the Pats. Former Moose Jaw Warriors GM Chad Lang figures in both stories, as there has been speculation for some time now that he could end up as Regina’s general manager, with Brent Parker moving upstairs to a position such as president. As I write this, Harder’s stories aren’t on the Leader-Post website, but he has written about it and posted something on his blog, which is right here. . . . It is interesting to note that Lang has been doing some work for the CHL in helping ready things for the Memorial Cup in Brandon.
(x — if necessary)
(All times local)
Calgary (1) vs. Brandon (2)
Friday: Brandon at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Brandon at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Tuesday: Calgary at Brandon, 6 p.m.
Wednesday: Calgary at Brandon, 6 p.m.
x-April 23: Brandon at Calgary, 6 p.m.
x-April 25: Calgary at Brandon, 5 p.m.
x-April 27: Brandon at Calgary, 6 p.m.
Tri-City (1) vs. Vancouver (5)
Friday: Vancouver at Tri-City, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Vancouver at Tri-City, 7:35 p.m.
Tuesday: Tri-City at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
Thursday: Tri-City at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
x-April 23: Vancouver at Tri-City, 7:05 p.m.
x-April 25: Tri-City at Vancouver, TBD
x-April 27: Vancouver at Tri-City, 7:05 p.m.
If you’re paying attention, you will have noticed that the Tri-City versus Vancouver schedule is different from the one that was first released by the WHL office.
Originally, Game 5 — assuming it is necessary — was scheduled for Saturday, April 24, at 1 p.m., because an Indoor Football League game is scheduled to be played that night in the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash. The WHL now has moved Game 5 to Friday, April 23, at 7:05 p.m. (Apparently, the Tri-Cities Fever has a contract with the Toyota Center that gives it control of the building for at least six hours on game days.)
Anyway . . . moving Game 5 to Friday night means the teams will play Game 4 in Vancouver the previous night (here’s hoping it doesn’t go to overtime), climb on their buses immediately afterwards, and drive through the night to get to Kennewick in order to play the second of back-to-back games.
At the same time, Game 6, which had been scheduled for Monday, April 26, in Vancouver, now has been moved to Sunday, April 25, in Vancouver. A game time for that one has yet to be determined, presumably because they are waiting to see whether the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings are still involved in an NHL series and, if so, at what time their game will start that same day. At present, the Canucks and Kings are scheduled to play Game 6 in Los Angeles that day, at a time yet to be determined.
Of course, all of this, including the back-to-back games in different arenas, could have been avoided had the WHL moved Game 4.
The teams are scheduled to play Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday nights in Vancouver. The Giants apparently chose not to play at home on Wednesday because they wanted to avoid a conflict with the Canucks and Kings, who are on TV that night from Los Angeles.
But in order to avoid the Games 5-6 scenario it may find itself faced with, the WHL should have made the Giants play at home Wednesday night. That would only be fair to the players and to the fans. The players, especially, deserve better treatment than this. They play all season long to get to the playoffs, and then they are hit with the possibility of having to play back-to-back games in different arenas, which are about 500 kilometres apart.
Something smells here and it ain’t rotting fish.
PLAYOFF NOTES: The mind games have started and Tri-City head coach Jim Hiller got off the first volley. The Giants are a team whose forwards are known for getting to the opposition’s net. In Tri-City’s case, the net is guarded by 5-foot-8 Drew Owsley. “We have to be strong in front of our net and the referees have to make sure that they don’t cross the line on our goalie,” Hiller told Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province. . . . Hiller, of course, is hoping that the referees read the Province or this blog. . . . Ewen points out: “Combine the past three regular seasons and playoffs and the Giants have played 253 games. The most goals they’ve given up in one game over that span is eight, and they’ve done it twice, both times while visiting the Americans (8-2 loss on Nov. 6, 2009; 8-2 loss on Nov. 2, 2007). They’re 2-6 in the Toyota Center over the last four years.” . . . Giants F Brett Breitkreuz, who missed Game 6 of their series with the Portland Winterhawks with an undisclosed injury, practised Thursday. . . . Giants head coach Don Hay goes into the series with 99 playoff victories, second only to Ken Hodge’s 101. . . . D Darren Bestland (undisclosed) of the Brandon Wheat Kings hasn’t skated all week and isn’t expected to play in either of the first two games against the Calgary Hitmen. Brandon D Ryley Miller (jaw) may be ready in time for Game 1 on Friday night. . . . In the regular season, the Wheat Kings took three of four from the Hitmen, with Calgary’s victory coming via the shootout. . . . Calgary is appearing in the Eastern Conference final for a fourth straight season. In 2007, the Hitmen lost in five games to the Medicine Hat Tigers. In 2008, Calgary was swept by the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Last season, the Hitmen swept the Wheat Kings.
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