THE MacBETH REPORT:
F Marek Ivan (Lethbridge, Moose Jaw, 1996-98) signed a contract with AZ Havirov (Czech Republic, 2.Liga). He had 13 goals and 17 assists in 28 games this season with Karvina (Czech Republic, 2.Liga). . . .
F Stanislav Balan (Portland, 2005-06) was one of four players released by Lev Poprad (Slovakia, KHL). Balin had one goal and one assist in 16 games this season with Lev. He also had three goals and four assists in seven games with SKP Poprad (Slovakia, Extraliga) this season. . . .
F Marcel Hossa (Portland, 1998-2001) signed a contract for the rest of this season with Atlant Mytishchi (Russia, KHL), two days after his release by Spartak Moscow (Russia, KHL). Hossa had six goals and 11 assists in 35 games for Spartak this season.
Prince George head coach Dean Clark met up with Gerard Hayes, one of the WHL’s officiating supervisors, moments after the Cougars had dropped a 5-0 decision to the host Kamloops Blazers on Sunday night.
“That’s embarrassing . . . that’s embarrassing,” Clark told Hayes.
Clark was referring to the officiating. He may as well have been referring to the entertainment value of the game.
The time has come for the WHL to take a serious look at its schedule in the latter half of December and into January.
This season, the WHL played games through Dec. 18 and then broke for Christmas, returning with games on Dec. 27.
The WHL boasts of having 34 of its players competing at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. And in another news release it tells us that there are 18 more of its players in the World Junior Championship.
That means the WHL’s 22 teams are missing 52 of their better players. And that doesn’t include any players who are out with injuries.
With 22 teams, the WHL’s talent pool is thin enough — some would say it’s thinner than the gruel Tiny Tim would get for breakfast — that none of its teams has the depth to withstand losing players to these Christmas assignments without it having a real impact.
On Sunday in Kamloops, for example, the two teams were missing seven players who are competing in the WJC and/or WHC. Four others were out with injuries.
While the Blazers are second in the 10-team Western Conference, the Cougars are scrambling to get into the playoffs. Down five players, they just didn’t have the depth to compete with the Blazers.
The result was a game that was anything but entertaining. As entertainment, it was . . . well, it wasn’t. (Oh, we should tell you that the same two teams get to do it again Friday and Saturday in Prince George. Hopefully, help will have arrived by then.)
Despite missing all those players, of course, the WHL and its teams aren’t about to give the fans a break by cutting ticket prices.
So why not change the schedule?
Why not play games through Dec. 22 or Dec. 23 and then break until early in the new year?
Why not allow players to go home and spend some real quality Christmas time with their families, instead of having to travel on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) in order to play games on Dec. 27?
Why not extend the break right into the new year? The WHC and WJC wrap up on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5, so why not give the teams and their fans a break and return on Jan. 6 or 7?
This season, the WHL schedule was dark for eight days. Why not play through Dec. 23, bring players back Jan. 2 for a couple days of practice and then resume the schedule? Why not take two weeks off instead of eight days?
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So . . . here's a hypothetical situation for you.
You are involved in the management of a WHL team.
It is the Friday before Christmas and your team is spread far and wide as the WHL takes its festive break.
One of your players chooses to pay a pre-Christmas visit to a local nightspot. He is of age, so that isn’t a problem.
What is a problem is this: The player gets into a fight of some sort and, no, he doesn’t emerge as the winner.
So . . . when your team resumes its schedule, what do you do?
(a) Suspend the player and show him as being out with an upper body injury?
(b) Don’t suspend him and show him as being out with an upper body injury?
(c) Release the player?
Hey . . . just asking.
F Charles Wells, 20, has joined the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints, according to Tyler King, the radio voice of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. . . . Wells was placed on waivers by Portland and claimed by the Moose Jaw Warriors before Christmas. But he has chosen not to return to the WHL. He had 120 points in 265 WHL games with Seattle, Prince Albert and Portland.
In Regina, the Pats scored two shorthanded goals as they beat the Edmonton Oil Kings, 5-2. . . . Edmonton went into the game having allowed just one shorthanded goal all season. . . . Regina scored the game’s first four goals and took a 4-0 lead deep into the third period. . . . F Michael St. Croix scored twice for Edmonton, giving him 24. . . . The Oil Kings picked up five of eight points on a four-game East Division swing. . . .
In Kelowna, G Chris Driedger stopped 27 shots as the Calgary Hitmen beat the Rockets, 2-0. . . . It was the first shutout of Driedger’s career. . . . Calgary F Brooks Macek scored 1:12 into the first period and that goal stood up as the winner. . . . F Alex Gogolev added his 15th at 19:31 of the second period. . . . Kelowna G Jordon Cooke stopped 33 shots. . . .
In Saskatoon, F Matej Stransky struck for three goals to lead the Blades to an 8-2 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Stransky has 21 goals this season. . . . Saskatoon D Dalton Thrower, who had six points, including four assists, in a 9-4 victory over visiting Prince Albert on Friday, had a goal and three assists. . . . Yes, the Blades, who couldn’t buy goals before Christmas, have 17 goals in their last two games. . . . F Lukas Sutter broke a 1-1 tie at 18:49 of the first period and the Blades went on to take control with a 5-1 lead. . . . Saskatoon GM/head coach Lorne Molleken was behind the bench for his 963rd WHL game, moving him into a tie with the late Pat Ginnell for fourth place on the all-time list. . . . The victory was the 542nd of Molleken’s WHL coaching career. He is third on the all-time list. Ken Hodge, of course, is No. 1, at 742, with Ernie (Punch) McLean second at 548. Don Hay of the Vancouver Giants is right behind Molleken, at 540. . . .
In Swift Current, D Graeme Craig, who lost three teeth in a Friday game, scored his third goal of the season and it stood up as the winner as the Broncos beat the Medicine Hat Tigers, 4-2. . . . Craig has three goals this season. . . . Craig took a puck in the chops during a 4-1 loss to the Pats in Regina on Friday night. He now is wearing a cage while he undergoes repairs and the healing process takes place. . . . Broncos F Ryon Moser, playing his 150th game, had a goal, his ninth, and an assist. . . . Swift Current F Brad Hoban (ill) was among the scratches. . . . Medicine Hat assistant coach Darren Kruger, a former Broncos defenceman, handled the ceremonial faceoff as Swift Current remembered the four players, including Kruger’s brother Scott, who were killed in a bus accident on Dec. 30, 1986. . . .
In Kamloops, G Cole Cheveldave stopped 22 shots to help the Blazers to a 5-0 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . Cheveldave has two shutouts, both of them against the Cougars. . . . F Tim Bozon and F Cole Ully each scored twice for the Blazers, while F Brandon Herrod, acquired Saturday from the Prince Albert Raiders, had a PP goal. . . . Ully has five goals this season, and three of them are game-winners. . . . The teams meet again Friday and Saturday in Prince George. Which may or may not have had anything to do with a line brawl that occurred with one minute to play in the third period. Ch-ch-ching! . . . The Cougars ended up taking 95 of the 160 penalty minutes.
SUNDAY’S CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT:
D Cody Corbett, Edmonton.
At the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, Team West fell to 0-3 as it dropped a 7-3 decision to the U.S. in Tecumseh, Ont. . . . F Remi Laurencelle, whose WHL rights belong to Lethbridge, D Kayle Doetzel (Red Deer) and F Cory Millette (Red Deer) scored for Team West. . . . G Austin Lotz (Everett) stopped 38 shots. . . . sTeam West plays Russia tonight, while Team Pacific (3-0) meets the U.S. The playoff round beings Tuesday.
In a piece headlined How TSN Killed the WJCs, Joe Pelletier over at Greatest Hockey Legends pretty much sums up my feelings on the tournament. Check it out. There’s a link over there on the left.