Monday, February 20, 2012

F John Lammers (Lethbridge, Everett, 2001-06) and F Tyler Spurgeon (Kelowna, 2001-06) each signed one-year contract extensions with Klagenfurt (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). . . . Lammers has 12 goals and 13 assists in 43 games. . . . Spurgeon has two goals and seven assists in seven games this season.
I was in the press box at Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops late Saturday night when I learned of the passing of Cal Murphy, who had been in a Regina hospital after experiencing a fall.
While I wasn’t surprised as I had heard Murphy was having health issues of late, I was saddened.
During a total of 22 years at the late, great Winnipeg Tribune and the Regina Leader-Post, I came in contact with a lot of football people. The one I remember the most is Murphy, who would have been 80 on March 12.
When he smiled, he lit up the room. And no one had a laugh — nay, a cackle — like he did.
Most people are aware that Murphy, after having had heart issues and at least two heart attacks, underwent a heart transplant in July of 1992 at the London, Ont., Health Sciences Centre.
No one loved the CFL more than did Murphy. Once he was able to leave the hospital in London, he returned to Winnipeg and one of his first stops was Winnipeg Stadium where he watched the Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 59-11 in the East final.
In recent times, Murphy’s health hasn’t been terrific and in early 2010 he actually was on a respirator in a Regina hospital. A month after that episode, however, he was back searching for players on behalf of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.
Murphy spent three seasons on the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ coaching staff, starting in 1997. He was the director of football operations and head coach in 1999.
On Sept. 29, 1999, I underwent triple bypass surgery in a Regina hospital.
There was a gift basket from the Roughriders in the first batch of mail I received upon returning home.
Included was a card from Murphy, who had written: “I didn’t know you had a heart!!!”
I laughed because I could see that smile and I could hear him cackling as he wrote it.
Cal Murphy . . . he was one of a kind.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the WHL has been hit by an epidemic of injuries.
The Red Deer Rebels, of course, are the best (worst?) example, but right now the Brandon Wheat Kings and Tri-City Americans also are hurting in a big, big way. The Saskatoon Blades also have had their injury woes.
The Medicine Hat Tigers have at least four regulars out of the lineup.
The Kelowna Rockets have fought the injury bug for most of the season, as have the Vancouver Giants.
And on and on it goes.
Yes, coaches regularly are heard to say that “all teams go through this” and “this gives other guys the opportunity to step up.”
That’s fine if a team is missing one, two or maybe even three players. But when a team has three or four players out on a long-term basis, it is going to catch up with it.
So . . . what do do?
I was told Sunday that there is some talk about WHL teams carrying 25 players next season. That would be an increase of two.
I would suggest that would be a good idea if the two added players both were 20 years of age. Why not increase the number of allowable 20-year-olds per roster to five from three?
That would raise the league’s maturity level, improve the level of entertainment and give some more veteran players a chance to prolong their WHL careers.
I meant to mention this in yesterday’s notes, and it slipped through the cracks. . . . Saturday’s game between the visiting Calgary Hitmen and the Kamloops Blazers may have been the best-officiated game in Kamloops this season. Surely, the fact that referee Brent Montsion was working by himself was a coincidence. . . .
Say what you want about the Montreal Canadiens, but nobody does special ceremonies any better. The playing of Eagles’ New Kid in Town during Sunday’s tribute to the late Gary Carter was wonderful. . . .
If you were paying attention on the weekend, you may have seen former Montreal Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin in a WHL arena or two. He was checking out Tri-City Americans F Patrick Holland, a player the Habs acquired from the Calgary Flames earlier this season. . . . Martin is keeping busy. He was in Sweden not that long ago and has Denver and Boston on his itinerary.
The Western Conference now has five teams with playoff berths in their hip pockets. The Vancouver Giants clinched a spot Saturday and the Spokane Chiefs are in as of Sunday. . . . The sixth spot will go to the Kelowna Rockets. . . . The conference’s other four teams are going to scrap over the last two spots and it may well go down to the wire. Right now, there are two points separating the four teams. . . .
In the Eastern Conference, the chances are that the teams that are one through eight right now are the ones who will be in the playoffs. But the Red Deer Rebels, as injury ravaged as they are, obviously aren’t prepared to lay down for anyone. They won Sunday and are seven points back with 13 to play. . . . They couldn’t, could they?

In Vancouver, F Tyson Ness broke a 1-1 tie at 18:28 of the second period and the Red Deer Rebels went on to beat the Giants, 3-1. . . . F Charles Inglis scored his 18th goal just 18 seconds into the game for Red Deer. . . . F Riley Kieser got his fourth for the Giants at 14:25 of the second. . . . Ness has 15 goals. . . . F Turner Elson provided insurance with his 21st, but it didn’t come until 19:53 of the third. . . . Red Deer G Deven Dubyk stopped 29 shots, two fewer than Vancouver’s Adam Morrison. . . . Vancouver F Anthony Ast and F Marek Tvrdon both completed WHL suspensions by sitting out this one. . . . The Rebels, who were playing their third game in three nights, went 2-1-1 on a four-game swing into the B.C. Division. . . . Vancouver was playing its fifth game in six nights — it went 3-1-1, losing the last two, one of them in a shootout. . . . Vancouver D Neil Manning played in his 300th regular-season game, the first player to do that entirely in a Giants uniform. . . .

In Kent, Wash., G Mac Engel stopped 18 shots as the Spokane Chiefs beat the host Seattle Thunderbirds, 3-0. . . . It was Engel’s first shutout of the season; he has five in his career. . . . F Dominick Uher got the game’s first goal, his 25th, at 10:05 of the first period. F Colin Valcourt, with his 14th, and F Liam Stewart, with his 11th, also scored. . . . Seattle dressed 17 skaters, one under the maximum. . . . Seattle G Calvin Pickard stopped 31 shots. . . . The Chiefs snapped a four-game losing skid. . . . Seattle last won two in a row on Dec. 28 and 30. Since then, the Thunderbirds have lost 21 of 25.
F Mitch Elliot, Seattle.
D Corbin Baldwin, Spokane.
F Scott Cooke, Vancouver.
Every Sunday, I fire up the Keurig coffee maker and read the Sunday papers online. One of my first stops is the Seattle Times, where I  check in with Ron Judd. His Sunday column is a piece of work. It really is. He obviously has a lifetime supply of darts and he uses them well. This week, Judd, who isn’t believed to be related to Naomi, Ashley or Wynonna, writes about the future of the NBA and NHL in Seattle. It is today’s good read and I dare you not to nod your head in agreement as you’re reading.
D Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers hasn’t shown any improvement with his post-concussion symptoms. This story, from Tim Panaccio of, is rather frightening.
Just for kicks, click right here and read an obituary from the Casper Tribune. You won’t be disappointed.
Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province takes a look right here at D Nolan Baumgartner, who now plays for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. He will saluted there on Friday for playing in his 1,000th professional game.
From F Matt Kassian (@kassassination) after his Minnesota Wild beat the visiting Boston Bruins 2-0 on Sunday in a game that was televised by NBC-TV: “Funny thing — during a TV timeout tonight Pierre Mcguire leaned over and told me 7 or 8 detailed facts about my life that I didnt even know.”

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