Sunday, March 18, 2012

It was on March 16, 2002, when a deflected puck flew into the stands in the Nationwide Arena in Columbus and struck a young girl named Brittanie Cecil in the head. Soon to turn 14, she died two nights later.
Following her death, leagues, teams and arenas everywhere were quick to install netting to protect fans. You may recall the hue and cry at the time. “People wouldn’t want to look through netting.” “The game has been played all these years without netting, so why now?” . . . And on and on it went.
Steve Macfarlane of the Calgary Sun looks back at the incident right here.
Which brings us to Don Sanderson. Remember him?
He was playing senior hockey for the Whitby, Ont., Dunlops when he got into a fight, lost his helmet and hit his head on the ice.
That was on Dec. 14, 2008. Sanderson, who had been in a coma, died on Jan. 2, 2009.
Three years later, nothing has changed. Yes, there is more concussion awareness at all levels of hockey. But the powers-that-be still allow teenagers to punch themselves in the face for the entertainment of others.
While there is netting in place to protect the fans from flying pucks, what has been done to protect the players from flying fists? Or have we already forgotten about Don Sanderson?
There really isn’t a question here; it is more of a statement and some opinion, but it’s from a former WHL coach who continues to be heavily involved in coaching . . .
Dear Commissioner:
If somebody fights with another person — who doesn't want to fight and tries to get out of there or turtles — why isn't this considered assault and dealt with as a criminal offence? Particularly with you and your league continuing to demonstrate a grievous lack of leadership and understanding in regards to prevailing attitudes in the real world? In simpler terms — if you can't police yourselves and OUTLAW fighting and headshots, then turn it over to the police.
Second to that, Mr. Commisioner, if you won't outlaw headshots and fighting, I PROMISE I will educate as many parents as I possibly can on the misguided lack of leadership by hockey — specifically the WHL — while steering my child, and any other children I teach/coach, into safer individual and team sports where they learn the important life lessons of RESPECT and SPORTSMANSHIP. After all, hockey is just a game and for 99.99 per cent of all who play it, it ends with minor hockey or beer leagues. I want my children to be able to function as contributing citizens in real life without scrambled brains or confusion brought on at least in part because what is acceptable in hockey isn't acceptable on the streets or in the courts — where DEMOCRATIC LAW governs and prevails. Get on it, Mr. Commissioner. Time is ticking and with every concussion and fight that happens on your watch it is yet another mark against you and your legacy.
"Silence in the face of wrongdoing is complicity." — Marcus Luttrell.
Congrats to old friend Andy Murray, whose Western Michigan Broncos won the Mason Cup as CCHA tournament champions on Saturday with a 3-2 victory over the Michigan Wolverines at Joe Louis Arena. . . . Murray is in his first season as the Broncos’ head coach. . . . You can bet G.D. and Ab are smiling.
Pour some coffee and give Jim Matheson’s Hockey World a read. The piece from the Edmonton Journal is right here.
The NHL’s Calgary Flames returned F Sven Baertschi to the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday. He scored three goals in five games while with the Flames on emergency recall due to a rash of injuries. With one or two of those injured players returning, the Flames were obligated to return Baertschi. . . . The Winterhawks went 2-3 while Baertschi was away, playing all five games on the road. . . . I’ll let you decide whether the Flames had an impact on the Western Conference playoff picture. . . . Without Baertschi, they got swept in Victoria and those two victories all but put the Royals into the playoffs. Now, assuming Baertschi is in the lineup today, the Winterhawks can ruin the Seattle Thunderbirds chance at getting into the playoffs.

Eastern Conference
Edmonton (1) vs. Kootenay (8)
Moose Jaw (2) vs. Regina (7)
Calgary (3) vs. Brandon (6)
Medicine Hat (4) vs. Saskatoon (5)
Western Conference
Tri-City (1) vs. Everett/Seattle (8)
Kamloops (2) vs. Victoria (7)
Portland (3) vs. Kelowna (6)
Vancouver (4) vs. Spokane (5)
Seattle at Portland
If Seattle wins, the Thunderbirds would be tied with Everett for eighth place in the Western Conference. Those two teams would meet Tuesday in Kent, Wash., in a sudden-death game for that last spot. . . . If Portland wins, Everett finishes eighth and plays the Tri-City Americans in the first round.
(End of regular season)
(For lots of good WHL stuff, get on Twitter and follow @WHLFacts. Some of the numbers below are from @WHLFacts.)

In Brandon, F Mark Stone had two goals and two assists to lead the Wheat Kings to a 7-2 victory over the Regina Pats. . . . Stone finished the season with 123 points, which would have won the scoring title in any of the last 12 seasons. Instead, he is second, 11 behind Tri-City’s Brendan Shinnimin. Portland F Ty Rattie is five points behind Stone with one game left. . . . F Brenden Walker had four assists for Brandon, with D Eric Roy drawing three assists. . . . The Wheat Kings put this one away with four goals in a 5:51 span in the second period. . . . F Darian Dziurzynski scored his 30th goal of the season for Brandon. . . . Brandon D Brodie Melnychuk playing in his 318th regular-season game, scored twice, giving him eight this season and 25 in his career. . . . Brandon G Corbin Boes, making his 10th straight start, stopped 22 shots. . . . For the second straight night, Brandon F Kevin Sundher (concussion) skated in the warmup and then was scratched. . . . Brandon will be in Calgary for Games 1 and 2 against the Hitmen on Thursday and Friday. . . . The Wheat Kings will play first-round home games at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg because the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair takes over Westman Place. . . . Games 3 and 4 in Winnipeg will be played on March 25 and 27. . . . If necessary, they’ll play Game 5 in Winnipeg on March 29. . . . The Pats will open against the Warriors in Moose Jaw on Friday. . . .

In Moose Jaw, the Warriors scored six times in the second period and beat the Prince Albert Raiders, 7-1. . . . Warriors G Justin Paulic, a 16-year-old from Thompson, Man., the hometown of former WHL coach Jack Sangster, stopped 24 shots in his WHL debut. He was an eighth-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft. . . . The Warriors set franchise records for victories (45) and points (98). . . . F Kenton Miller scored twice for Moose Jaw, giving him 35 goals, while F Sam Fioretti also had two goals and finished with 21. . . . The Warriors and Regina Pats open Friday in Moose Jaw. . . .

In Calgary, G Chris Driedger stopped 25 shots as the Hitmen blanked the Kootenay Ice, 3-0. . . . It was Driedger’s third shutout of the season and the third of his career. . . . D Peter Kosterman scored the game’s first goal, his second of the season, at 16:13 of the second. . . . F Greg Chase had three assists. . . . F Jimmy Bubnick scored twice, giving him 36. . . . One night earlier, the Ice overcame a 4-0 first-period deficit and beat the Ice 6-5 in OT in Cranbrook. . . . The Ice scratched F Drew Czerwonka and F Max Reinhart, both of whom are injured. Kootenay is hoping both will be ready for the playoffs. . . . Among Calgary’s scratches was F Cody Sylvester. . . . Interestingly, the Ice, which began life as the Edmonton Ice, will meet the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first round. That series opens Friday in Edmonton. . . . The Hitmen will open at home on Thursday against the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Driedger’s shutout was the 63rd in the WHL this season, the lowest total since 1999-2000 when there were 61. The record is 120 from 2006-07. . . . Tri-City led the WHL with eight shutouts; Tri-City G Ty Rimmer and Seattle’s Calvin Pickard had a WHL-leading five each. . . .

In Saskatoon, Christian Magnus scored twice and added an assist to help the Swift Current Broncos to a 7-3 victory over the Blades. . . . F Graham Black helped the winners with a goal and two assists, and F Ryon Moser had three assists. . . . Swift Current freshman F Coda Gordon got his 30th goal. . . . Broncos G Jon Groenheyde stopped 23 shots in his final WHL game. . . . Saskatoon was 1-4 on the PP; the Broncos were 0-0. . . . The Blades finished 6-2-0 against the Broncos. . . . Saskatoon D Matt Pufhal returned after missing 21 games with an ankle injury. . . . The Blades will meet Medicine Hat in the first round and they’ll open on the road on Friday. . . .

In Medicine Hat, F Russell Maxwell scored three times in regulation and then added the winner in the circus as the Lethbridge Hurricanes beat the Tigers 6-5 in a shootout. . . . Lethbridge F Graham Hood scored his 16th of the season with 16.5 seconds left in the third period to force OT. . . . Maxwell finished with 15 goals. . . . The Hurricanes trailed 3-1 after the first period and 4-2 halfway through the second. . . . Medicine Hat F Hunter Shinkaruk scored twice to finish with 49 goals in 66 games. A pure talent, Shinkaruk had 42 points, including 14 goals, as a 16-year-old. This season, he had 91 points. . . . Tigers F Emerson Etem, who didn’t score, led the WHL with 61 goals. . . . Medicine Hat G Tyler Bunz finished with 39 victories. . . . Lethbridge F Brody Sutter got his 30th goal in his final WHL game. . . . D Matthew Konan had a goal and two assists for the Tigers. . . . The Tigers will open at home against Saskatoon on Friday. . . .

In Red Deer, the Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Rebels 7-3 and win the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy for finishing atop the WHL’s overall standings. . . . Somewhere, ‘Wild’ Bill Hunter is giving it to Scotty and Ed Chynoweth is refereeing. . . . The Oil Kings closed out the season by winning their 50th game and 11 in a row. . . . F Curtis Lazar scored twice for Edmonton, giving him 20 goals. He was the second overall pick in the 2010 bantam draft. . . . F Kristians Pells added a goal, his 28th, and two assists for Edmonton. . . . The Rebels hung in there — the score was 3-3 eight minutes into the second period — but simply ran out of gas as Edmonton scored the last four goals. . . . Edmonton F Henrik Samuelsson left at 18:29 of the first period after being hit with a clipping major and game misconduct. He already has served two suspensions since joining the team after Christmas. . . . Edmonton G Laurent Brossoit won his 42nd game. . . . Red Deer D Alex Petrovic had a goal and an assist in what no doubt was his final WHL game. Petrovic, 19, will join the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage early next week. The Rampage is the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. . . . The Rebels, whose season was devastated by injuries, finished by dressing only 15 skaters, three under the maximum, for their final game. . . . Early Saturday, the Rebels thought they would be without F Dexter Bricker, a recall from midget AAA. According to a tweet from the Rebels, he was out “with an upper body injury, after taking a punch to the head from behind (Friday) night.” . . . However, Bricker’s name is on the online scoresheet. . . . The Oil Kings will open at home to the defending-champion Kootenay Ice on Friday. . . . That matchup could be tough on the the Reinhart family. Griffin is a defenceman with the Oil Kings; Max and Sam are forwards with the Ice. Max is out with a concussion but the Ice is hoping he’ll be ready to go by Friday. . . .

In Kelowna, F Zach Franko scored the only goal of the circus to give the Rockets a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The Giants tied the score with two third-period goals. F Scott Cooke got his first WHL goal at 14:36 and F Marek Tvrdon added his 31st, and second of the game, while shorthanded at 17:31. . . . The Giants, having locked up fourth place, left G Adam Morrison, D Neil Manning and F Brendan Gallagher at home. . . . Vancouver G Jackson Whistle, who is from Kelowna, stopped 44 shots. . . . The Giants will have home-ice against Spokane with the series opening Friday in Vancouver. . . . The Rockets will open in Portland on Friday. . . . Tvrdon led all freshmen in points (74), finishing three points ahead of F Tim Bozon of Kamloops, who was tops in goals (36). D Martin Gernat of Edmonton had the most assists (46). . . .

In Prince George, F Spencer Asuchak scored twice to help the Cougars to a 4-2 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. . . . Asuchak, who is from Kamloops, was playing his final WHL game. He finished with 18 goals this season. . . . Attendance was announced as 4,582. . . . F Troy Bourke had two assists. The 17-year-old sophomore, who hasn’t had a whole lot of pub with the Cougars, finished with 56 points in 71 games. The first assist was his 100th career point. He has 101 points in 144 games. . . . Prince George G Devon Fordyce stopped 38 shots. . . . The Kamloops line of Brendan Ranford, Brandon Herrod and Jordan DePape was pointless and a combined minus-8. One night earlier, they had 10 points in a 10-4 Blazers victory in Kamloops. . . . The Kamloops loss guaranteed the idle Portland Winterhawks of home-ice advantage in the second round, should they get there. . . . The Blazers will be at home to Victoria on Friday. . . . The Royals are expected to be without F Brandon Magee, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Friday's 3-1 victory over visiting Portland.

In Kent, Wash., the Everett Silvertips got their first lead late in the third period and then hung on to beat the host Seattle Thunderbirds, 6-4. . . . They exchanged goals until Everett F Zach McPhee tied it 4-4 with his fifth goal at 8:31 of the third. . . . F Cody Fowlie gave Everett its first lead with his 14th goal at 15:11 and F Ryan Harrison iced it with an empty-netter at 19:41. Harrison finished with 20 goals. . . . F Connor Honey had two goals, giving him 10 and an assist for Seattle. . . . Seattle F Luke Lockhart scored his 16th goal on a second-period penalty shot. . . . F Jari Erricson set up three goals for Everett. . . . Everett G Kent Simpson stopped 29 shots, while Seattle’s Calvin Pickard turned aside 35. . . . The victory left Everett out of games and in eighth place in the Western Conference. Seattle is two points back with one game left — in Portland this evening. . . . There are some good play-by-play voices in the WHL but none are better than Thom Beuning, who calls the play for the Thunderbirds on 710AM ESPN. He has great pipes and doesn’t lean too far one way. . . . Don’t believe me? Give him a listen when he calls Seattle’s game out of Portland tonight. . . . By the way game time is 5 p.m. Pacific. . . .

In Kennewick, Wash., F Dylan Walchuk broke a 2-2 tie at 8:31 of the third period to give the Spokane Chiefs a 3-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . Walchuk’s 10th goal came via the PP. . . . D Brendan Kichton had a goal, his 17th, and an assist for the Chiefs. . . . D Reid Gow, who could be a key for the Chiefs, had two assists. Gow played only 54 games due to injuries and missed most of February. . . . Tri-City F Patrick Holland scored his 25th goal at 4:512 of the first on a PP to run his points streak to 20 games. However, his assists streak ended at 19 games. . . . Holland led the WHL in assists, with 84, two more than Brandon’s Mark Stone. . . . Tri-City F Brendan Shinnimin had an assist to run his point streak to a franchise-record 23 games, the first time two WHLers had 20-game streaks in the same season since 2003. . . . The Americans got a goal from F Jesse Mychan in his first game back after missing 15 with a hand injury. . . . Chiefs F Steve Kuhn played in his 288th consecutive game. He has played 72 games in each of his four seasons. . . . The Chiefs will open in Vancouver on Friday. . . . The Americans will meet Everett or Seattle, depending on what happens tonight in Portland and then maybe Tuesday in Kent, Wash.
F Josh Derko, Swift Current.
F Graham Hood, Lethbridge.

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