Friday, September 30, 2011

The Swift Current Broncos have sold fewer than 1,500 season tickets, after reaching more than 1,700 last season. 
And you wonder just how long the Broncos can survive, what with expenses continuing to rise across the WHL.
“I’m not sure that there’s a team out there that’s been able to cut costs,” Al Stewart, the chairman of the organization’s board of directors, told Matthew Liebenberg of the Prairie Post. “So as the budgets continue to rise we need to continue to generate higher and higher levels of income and our single biggest lever to income is season tickets and walk-up tickets. . . .
“We have fantastic fans here. On an average night more than 10 per cent of the people of Swift Current come to a hockey game. No other team could brag about that number. The problem that we have is that we have great fans, we just don’t have enough of them.”
The Broncos will hold their annual general meeting on Wednesday.
Liebenberg’s complete story is right here.
The Spokane Chiefs didn’t take long to get down to three 20-year-olds following the return of F Darren Kramer from the camp of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators. On Thursday, the Chiefs dealt F Matt Marantz to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a fourth-round selection in the 2012 bantam draft. . . . Marantz, who is from Calgary, had 42 points, incouding 20 goals, in 68 games with the Chiefs last season. . . . The Chiefs now have Kramer, F Steven Kuhn and D Corbin Baldwin as their three 20-year-olds. . . . Spokane is carrying 24 players, including three goaltenders and 12 forwards.
Meanwhile, Marantz becomes the fifth 20-year-old on the Hurricanes’ roster, although F Austin Fyten (knee) will be out indefinitely and could end up on the long-term injury list. Apparently, more will be known next week.
But the Hurricanes also have F Cam Braes, the recently named team captain, F Brody Sutter and G Damien Ketlo, who was acquired from the Regina Pats a couple of weeks ago.
WHL teams have until Oct. 13 to get down to a maximum of three 20-year-olds.
The Seattle Thunderbirds have acquired D Braeden (Bunny) Laroque, 19, from the Edmonton Oil Kings in exchange for a 2012 bantam draft pick. Neither team disclosed specifics involving the draft pick. Laroque, from Saskatoon, is into his third WHL season. He had six points and 32 penalty minutes in 54 games with Edmonton last season. Edmonton selected him in the fifth round of the 2007 bantam draft. . . . It was interesting that Edmonton players were tweeting their farewells to Laroque about five hours before either team announced the trade.
Esther Madziya is the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ new communications and public relations manager. She takes over from Ryan Ohashi effective Oct. 1, with Ohashi moving north to join the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Madziya has been working at CJOC 94.1 as half of a morning show — Mark and Esther in the Mornings. . . . She also has worked in the electronic media in Saskatoon where she covered tthe Blades.
JUST NOTES: F Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who won the WHL’s 2008-09 scoring title, was traded Thursday by the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers to the Bakersfield Condors for future considerations. He is under contract to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who selected him in the third round of the NHL’s 2007 draft. Last season, he had 34 points, 14 of them goals, in 42 games with Wheeling. He also had 20 points in 25 games with the Cincinnati Cyclones after being loaned to them by the Nailers. . . . The Condors also have signed F Thomas Frazee, who concluded his WHL career last season with the Kamloops Blazers. Frazee had committed to the U of Calgary Dinos but obviously has decided to forego that at least for now. . . .
There are a couple of important NHL deadlines approaching. NHL teams have until Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, to sign junior-aged players who were drafted in the fourth round or later, otherwise those players can’t play in the NHL. The deadline for those players selected in Rounds 1, 2 and 3 is Tuesday, 5 p.m. ET. . . .
It appears more and more likely that the Portland Winterhawks won’t get D Joe Morrow back, at least not for a while. Morrow, 19, has signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins and reportedly has had a fine training camp. The Penguins also are missing veteran D Brooks Orpik, who is recovering from offseason abdominal surgery and Morrow could help fill that hole, at least in the short term.
. . . Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Swift Current Broncos, reports that “F Dillon Wagner isn't with the team as he sustained a knee injury on Wednesday. No word of severity yet.” The Broncos are in Brandon tonight and Moose Jaw on Saturday. . . . The Medicine Hat Tigers have returned F Gavin Broadhead, 16, to the midget AAA Tigers. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft. His father, Curt, also played for the Tigers (1977-81).
If you have been following the attempt by Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, to purchase the NHL’s Dallas Stars, you may be wondering how a team from Texas ends up in a bankruptcy court in Delaware.
Steven Church and Dawn McCarty of Bloomberg Businessweek explain it all right here.
F Travis Ewanyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings underwent shoulder surgery on Thursday morning. Shortly thereafter, he tweeted: “Surgery went well. Now the work begins to get back on the ice and be at 100% as soon as possible.”
It is looking more and more as though F Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars will open the NHL season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. After all, he has been playing on a line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. On top of which, Connolly scored twice on Thursday night as the Lightning beat the host Montreal Canadiens, 4-0.
First, however, Connolly is going to have to visit his favourite tailor.
Well, here’s a tweet from him right after Thursday’s game:
 “Great game at the bell center. Even better prank the boys pulled. Cut the legs right off my dress pants. Nothing you can do but laugh.”
Today’s good read comes from Brett Popplewell, who tells the Derek Boogaard story for Sportsnet Magazine, which hit shelves this week.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee, click right here and be prepared for an engrossing and sad, sad story.
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