Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday . . .

F Adam Courchaine (Medicine Hat, Vancouver, 2001-05) signed a one-year contract extension with the DEG Metro Stars Dusseldorf (Germany, DEL). He had 16 goals and 17 assists in 52 games for the Metro Stars last season. . . .
G Kyle Moir (Swift Current, 2002-07) signed a one-year contract with Eindhoven Kemphanen (Netherlands, Eredivisie). He had a 3.25 GAA and a .896 save percentage in nine games for Lakehead University (CIS) and allowed six goals in one game with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL) last season. . . .
F Jeremy Williams (Swift Current, 2000-04) signed a one-year contract with Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). He had 32 goals and 23 assists in 75 games for the Connecticut Whale (AHL) and was pointless in one game with the New York Rangers last season.
The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds will introduce Steve Konowalchuk as their new head coach at a news conference today.
Konowalchuk, an assistant coach with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche for the last two seasons, replaces Rob Sumner who was fired following last season.
Konowalchuk, 38, is a native of Salt Lake City, who played two seasons (1990-92) with the Portland Winterhawks. He put up 196 points in 136 regular-season games.
He played in 790 NHL games over 14 seasons, splitting time between the Washington Capitals and Colorado.
Seattle’s move leaves the Everett Silvertips and Moose Jaw Warriors as the only WHL teams without head coaches under contract.
To the best of my knowledge, Jim Riley, a freelancer who covers the Thunderbirds for the Seattle Times, was first with this story.
Cory Wolfe, who is as good as any hockey writer in the game today, is leaving the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
Wolfe is leaving the newspaper to work in internal communications with Cameco.
You can bet that he will be missed by the other WHL beat writers.
It is a sad day when a talented writer with a terrific work ethic ends up leaving the newspaper business, but it is a sign of the times.
With the prevalence of the Internet in our day-to-day lives, newspapers everywhere are trying to find a business model that works. To date, that hasn’t happened.
Kevin Paul Dupont, a longtime hockey writer with the Boston Globe, tweeted on this subject Wednesday:
“If Exxon did all the work, brought gas to pump, gave free fill-ups . . . viable biz model?”
That about sums it up.
The WHL’s board of governors wrapped up its annual general meeting in Calgary on Wednesday by adopting what it is calling a “Seven Point Plan” aimed at reducing blows the head and concussions.
When I read — and re-read — the WHL’s press release I came up with eight points.
1. Adoption of new playing rules, specifically a checking to the head penalty for “lateral and blind-side hits to an unsuspecting opponent in open ice where the head is targeted or is the principle point of contact.”
2. More severe suspensions for repeat offenders.
3. Production of an educational video on risks of concussion.
4. Educating the players to be more responsible for themselves on the ice.
5. A seminar for all WHL head coaches and general managers.
6. New soft cap elbow and shoulder pads.
7. Expanded research data.
8. A review of all WHL arena facilities (and their) safety standards.
The WHL, according to its release, “also tightened the standard on late hits as well as charging and interference penalties to address players building up significant speed and hitting the opponent along the boards with excessive force.”
This all sounds great and for the sake of the young men involved — WHL players suffered more than 100 concussions in 2010-11 — you hope that it has a positive impact.
And as is usually the case with offseason changes, the proof will be in the pudding. So let's see what happens when another season gets here.
The one disappointing thing is that the WHL has done nothing to limit fighting. So while the WHL is acting in an attempt to cut down on checks to the head, it has done nothing to limit fists to faces.
The WHL’s board of governors also heard from five teams wanting to play host to the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
In the end, they set aside the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince George Cougars, while the Kelowna Rockets, Red Deer Rebels and Saskatoon Blades will make final presentations at a board meeting in Calgary on Oct. 12.
The Seattle Thunderbirds have launched their Sporcle page.
Sporcle? It is a popular quiz website.
There are two Thunderbirds quizzes up there now, one on coaches and the other on captains, with more promised.
Feel free to check it out.
JUST NOTES: F Juuso Puustinen, who played with the Kamloops Blazers (2006-08), has signed a two-year deal with the NHL’s Nashville Predators. According to, Puustinen, a free agent, gets a US$60,000 salary in the AHL and $610,000 in the NHL. He also got a $120,000 signing bonus over two seasons. . . . Puustinen, 23, was a fifth-round pick by the Calgary Flames in the 2006 NHL draft. . . . A Portland Winterhawks fan emails to let us know that “to the best of my knowledge, Andrew Ference becomes the third Hawk to win both the Memorial Cup and Stanley Cup. He joins John Kordic and Marian Hossa.” . . . The WHL office said it will release its preseason schedule on June 23 with the regular-season schedule coming out June 29.
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