Friday, November 26, 2010

Robert MacLeod of The Globe and Mail interviewed OHL vice-president Ted Baker about that league’s move to get rid of what it calls staged, or premeditated fights. That piece is right here.
The WHL, of course, moved prior to the 2008-09 season to get rid of such fights. However, I don’t know that the WHL had the same problem that OHL commissioner David Branch has indicated his league has had -- players hooking up on Facebook and setting up fights.
Here’s a chunk of what Branch said during an appearance on Prime Time Sports on Toronto‘s FAN 590 (thanks to Neate Sager of Yahoo! Sports):
"What the new rule is to address (is) those situations we feel, certainly at our level, have crept in at the start of the game or the start of the period, but particularly at the start of the game.
"The puck hits the ice, two players drop their gloves and go at it . . . you could reasonably suggest it's been premeditated and arrangements were made.
"I know through some focus groups we had with some of our players on social networking . . . that is one of the things that has been happening, where players have been, you know, prearranging what might occur in the way . . . of physical interaction for the next time they meet.
"We're addressing that and hope (the rule) will serve to remove it."
Is the WHL, along with the two other major junior leagues, going to have to spend some serious time thinking about and discussing the role of fighting in its game?
While it may not be politically correct to stand up and say fighting belongs in hockey, does the WHL need to take a look at fighting’s role in relation to attendance?
If you tour around the Internet, you will have noticed that people are starting to talk about the WHL and its attendance figures. For starters, people are using figures that are available right here.
You can read whatever you want into those figures, but one thing can’t be denied. League-wide attendance figures are down for a third consecutive season.
After games of Tuesday, attendance is down 17 fans per game, or 0.41 per cent. Those figures have nine teams down and a dozen showing an increase. The Medicine Hat Tigers are the other team; they sell 4,006 tickets per game and have for a number of seasons now.
It’s worth noting that six of the teams showing an increase are up less than five per cent. It is, then, a fine-edged sword.
Last season, league-wide attendance was down 277 fans per game (5.97 per cent); it was down 79 fans (1.67) in 2008-09.
Does the WHL’s stand against some but not all fighting have any bearing on those figures?
If you watched the video of the dustup between the Kamloops Blazers and the Winterhawks in Portland on Saturday night, you know that the fans loved it. If you missed it, the incident took place following the buzzer to end the second period, and the crowd noise gains momentum as the people in the seats come to realize what is happening on the ice.
It is safe to say that no one left the building.
It also is safe to say that this altercation was a one or a two on a scale of 1-10 when compared with the bench-clearing brawls of yesteryear.
One WHL team official suggested Thursday that he thought there was some over-reaction -- the WHL handed out $6,000 in fines (all of which were mandated by league rules) and 15 games in suspensions -- because, in his words, “there really was only one fight.”
As of late Thursday night, the video had been viewed 5,658 times on YouTube.
But, then again, if fighting really does draw fans, what’s the problem in Kamloops?
The Blazers lead the WHL in penalty minutes and in fighting majors -- and their roster includes LW Brendan Ranford, who leads the league in goals.
Through 12 home dates, attendance is down 299 fans per game. In fact, attendance in Kamloops appears headed down for a ninth consecutive season. In 2002-03, the Blazers averaged 5,373 fans, up 34 from the previous season. This season, the Blazers’ average attendance is 4,019.
Last season, the Prince George Cougars led the WHL in fighting majors. And we all know what’s going on with attendance there.
So maybe that theory is full of holes, too.
Maybe there is no definitive answer.
In order to fill its arena, perhaps a team needs a perfect storm -- a good, hard-working team, some toughness, some marketing and a whole lot of word of mouth.
But its all fodder for discussion, isn’t it?
The Prince Albert Raiders have dealt D Emerson Hrynyk, 18, to the Chilliwack Bruins for G Cole Holowenko, 17, who is with BCHL’s Westside Warriors.
A shoulder injury limited Hrynyk to eight games this season, although he was a healthy scratch for a 3-2 victory over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors on Wednesday. From Okanagan Falls, B.C., he had six points in 50 games with the Raiders. He joins a Bruins team that has a couple of defencemen on the limp. Zach Habscheid (knee) is week-to-week; Jesse Pauls (broken leg) is out indefinitely.
Holowenko was a second-round selection by the Bruins in the 2008 bantam draft. He will stay in Westside, as the Raiders continue to go with veteran Jamie Tucker and freshman Eric Williams.
D Kyle Aschim, 20, has joined the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies. Aschim (Prince Albert, Calgary, 2006-10) was plagued by shoulder problems last season with the Hitmen and had offseason surgery. Although he has been with Victoria for about a month, he played his first game with the Grizzlies on Thursday as they fell 4-3 to the host Surrey Eagels. . . . The rumours are out there again. Yes, the ones connecting the WHL to Victoria or Victoria to the WHL. The WHL has meetings coming up in January so it is no surprise that these rumours are making the rounds again. . . . People within the WHL have long said that the only way the league considers going back to Vancouver Island is if there are two teams there. And that won’t happen until a city other than Victoria builds a WHL-calibre arena. . . . If there was such a facility in Nanaimo, chances are the WHL would be looking at going back. . . . Victoria, which is home to the ECHL’s Salmon Kings, last had a WHL team for the 1993-94 season. The franchise moved to Prince George over the summer of 1993. . . . If you were wondering, the WHL’s Christmas trade moratorium runs from Dec. 15 through Dec. 27. . . . Hockey Canada will issue invitations to its national junior team’s selection camp on Monday. Gotta wonder if they are RSVP? . . .
Years ago, when he covered the WHL’s Winnipeg Clubs and Monarchs, he was Pat Doyle, a sports writer with the Winnipeg Tribune. He later wrote for the Toronto Sun and Winnipeg Sun. Today, he is Patti Dawn Swansson. Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun has that story right here.
The OHL’s Guelph Storm have shuffled the deck, at least a little bit. Mike Kelly is the team’s new vice-president and general manager, replacing Jason Brooks, who stays on as head coach. . . . The Storm is 10-9-3, good for fourth in the Midwest Division. . . . Kelly is a flash from the past -- he was the Storm’s GM for six seasons a while ago. . . . Kelly was helping run an Italian league team from North America and also was a part-time scout for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes when he chose to return to the Storm. . . . This Mike Kelly is not to be confused with Mike Kelly, who is the director of hockey operations and associate coach with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs and who once coached the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . But you have to wonder how much of their mail gets mixed up?
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