Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday . . .

F Hampus Gustafsson (Regina, Brandon, 2009-11) signed a one-year contract with Stjernen (Norway, Get Ligaen). He had 10 goals and 33 assists in 70 games with Regina and Brandon last season. . . .
F Derek Ryan (Spokane, 2003-07) signed a one-year contract with Szekesfehervar (Hungary, Austria Erste Bank Liga). Ryan had 17 goals and 30 assists in 28 games with the University of Alberta (CIS) last season. He was the Canada West Most Valuable Player and was named to the All-Canadian First Team. . . .
D Nathan Paetsch (Moose Jaw, 1998-2003) signed a one-year contract with Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL). He had nine goals and 11 assists in 43 games with the Rochester Americans and Syracuse Crunch (both AHL) last season.
Fans of the Medicine Hat Tigers should relax. At least a bit.
It would seem that the Medicine Hat Arena isn’t the only one in the WHL that doesn’t meet league standards.
If you tuned in late, Medicine Hat city council has voted 6-3 against a funding proposal for a $94.5-million regional event centre.
This is the latest development in what has turned into a long-running story regarding a potential new facility to replace the 41-year-old Medicine Hat Arena.
It comes with the good folks of Moose Jaw preparing to open a new complex. The Moose Jaw Warriors have vacated the Civic Centre (aka Crushed Can) and will move into a new facility in time for the 2011-12 season.
So . . . after the latest development in Medicine Hat, here’s what WHL commissioner Ron Robison told Amanda Stephenson of the Medicine Hat News:
“I think we were very patient in the Moose Jaw process, and that eventually resulted in a new facility for that city. We understand the challenges associated with funding a project of this nature, but on the other hand, Medicine Hat is currently the only facility in the Western Hockey League that does not meet our standards. We do need it addressed, and we need it addressed immediately."
Right away, fans started to wonder if the Tigers were on borrowed time.
But . . . whoa! Wait a minute here!
It turns out that Robison was singing the same tune in another WHL city not that long ago.
The March 1, 2010, edition of The Oregonian contains a story on the Winterhawks by freelancer Scott Sepich. The crux of the story was how far the Winterhawks had come since being purchased by Bill Gallacher in the fall of 2008, 
In the story, Sepich mentioned that the Winterhawks were working with the city and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers in the hopes of renovating their home arena, Memorial Coliesum, so that they would be able to use it on an every-game basis.
Sepich wrote:
“Robison has long contended that the Coliseum is not an appropriate venue for the WHL in its current form, citing shorcomings such as the smaller-than-regulation ice surface to the lack of amenities for fans.”
At that point, Sepich quoted Robison as saying:
"It doesn't meet our current standards, but it's adequate for the time being. We're excited about the plans for renovation."
Well, those “plans for renovation” are still just that . . . plans. In fact, any renovations to Memorial Coliseum won’t get started until the middle of 2012. Which must mean that the Portland rink still doesn’t meet WHL standards.
So, Medicine Hat hockey fans, you can breathe easier. Your rink may not meet those standards, but you are not alone.
By the way, Amanda Stephenson’s story is right here.
In that story, Robison is quoted as saying:
"I certainly hope council will revisit the matter soon to determine if there's a funding formula or new plan that will work. We had made an assumption that the project would be moving forward in a timely fashion.
"Obviously, that's not the case. We will now have to meet with the city, along with the Tigers, to determine what the alternative will be."
There would appear to be none.
With the NHL going back to Winnipeg, you would have to think that market is dead, at least for now, in terms of being home to a WHL franchise.
Of course, there is a building in Chilliwack that meets WHL standards but the league torched every bridge into it when it allowed the Bruins to be sold and moved to Victoria where the franchise now does business as the Royals.
The WHL would love to get a franchise into Nanaimo, which would give it two teams on Vancouver Island, but there isn’t a major junior-calibre arena there and the city doesn’t have any plans to build one.
John Ruttan, the mayor of Nanaimo, told Walter Cordery of the Nanaimo Daily News in April that he would like to see the WHL in his city but "not if they expect city taxpayers to underwrite the cost of a new arena."
Alternative? Not unless we are headed back to the days when the WHL was looking at places like Fresno and Butte and Anchorage.
Hey, what about Wenatchee, Wash.?
Dave Barr still is shown on the Minnesota Wild’s website as an assistant coach with the NHL team.
It seems, however, that he might end up as the next head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
I’m told that Barr has been offered the Warriors’ head-coaching job, and that he has been told the team needs an answer from him right after this weekend’s NHL draft.
Should Barr accept, meaning he isn’t able to land an NHL job over draft weekend, he would be introduced to the Moose Jaw fandom next week.
The Warriors are looking for head coach after they fired Dave Hunchak following the end of last season. He has since signed on as an associate coach with the Kamloops Blazers.
Barr just completed his second season on the Wild staff, after one season with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Wild, however, fired head coach Todd Richards after the season and has since named Mike Yeo as head coach. Yeo spent last season as head coach of the AHL’s Houston Aeros and is expected to bring Darryl Sydor along as one assistant coach.
Rick Wilson, the former Prince Albert Raiders head coach, will be staying on the Wild staff. Homebrew Darby Hendrickson is the other assistant coach, at least at present.
Barr also has major junior coaching experience, having guided the OHL’s Guelph Storm (2004-08).
Alan Millar, who is heading into his second season as Moose Jaw’s director of hockey operations. He was the GM of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting (2004-09), after being GM of the Storm (1997-2003).
Barr also played 614 games over 13 NHL seasons.
The Kootenay Ice, who won the WHL’s 2010-11 championship, have sold 2,029 season tickets, and that’s a franchise record. They sold 1,829 of them for the 2010-11 season.
“We’re very happy with that number. Not satisfied, but very happy,” Ice president and general manager Jeff Chynoweth told Matt Coxford of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.
That story is right here.
The Ice, as you will be aware, won the WHL title with a roster comprised entirely of Canadian players after Chynoweth chose not take part in the CHL’s 2010 import draft.
Will the Ice be involved in this year’s import draft?
“At this time,” he told Coxford, “we haven’t decided if we’re going to participate in that.”
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