THE MacBETH REPORT:
F Justin Keller (Kelowna, 2003-06) signed a one-year contract extension with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). He had 16 goals and 19 assists in 52 games split between Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga) and the Capitals. . . .
F Matt MacKay (Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Vancouver, Brandon, 2008-11) signed a one-year contract extension with the Schwenninger Wild Wings (Germany, 2. Bundesliga). He had three goals and five assists in 42 games with the Wings this season. . . .
D Robert Schnabel (Red Deer, 1997-99) signed a one-year contract extension with the Manchester Phoenix (England, Premier). He had eight goals and 18 assists in 45 games with the Premier League champs this season. . . .
F Lauris Darzins (Kelowna, 2004-06) signed a one-year contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk (Russia, KHL). He had four goals and eight assists in 24 games with Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL) this season. Darzins also was captain of the Latvian national team at the world championship last month, where he had five goals and one assist in seven games. He also was Latvia’s leading scorer at the 2014 Olympics Qualifying Tournament with three goals and two assists in three games. Latvia won its group and qualified for Sochi. . . .
And an interesting note from the KHL. The league has mandated going to NHL-sized rinks starting with the 2013-2014 season. Hmmm. . . .
There was a time when the WHL would at least put out a news release in advance of its annual general meeting.
These days, it seems the WHL would prefer to operate in secrecy.
There was no news release early in the week to provide even a speck of information on what would be on the agenda. That annual two-day meeting apparently was held in Vancouver and ended Wednesday. (Allow me to ask once again: Why not hold the annual meeting in one of the league’s smaller cities, providing a hotel or two and a restaurant or three with some offseason business? Or perhaps it could have been held in Portland where it might have received far more media attention than it did in Vancouver.)
Anyway . . .
According to the WHL’s own news release:
“One of the highlights of the meetings was a report on the WHL Concussion Management Safety Program indicating that concussions were down over 20% overall during the 2012-13 season compared to the 2011-12 season. The reduced number of concussions is largely a result of the WHL's Seven Point Plan, a comprehensive education and prevention program designed to reduce contact to the head and concussions, introduced prior to the 2011-12 season.”
The WHL, of course, didn’t provide any numbers. It expects us to take this at face value.
Brain injuries, it wants us to believe, are down more than 20 per cent. Of course, that could mean 20.1 per cent; it could mean 50 per cent. It could mean anything more than 20 per cent.
But more than 20 per cent of what? The WHL needs to start giving the media and fans credit for some intelligence; in other words, don’t expect that stuff to be swallowed like so much pablum.
The WHL started hiding its injury information following a 2010-11 season in which players accumulated more than 100 brain injuries and alarm bells started to go off. Those alarm bells got louder when some media outlets made something out of the WHL having surpassed the century mark.
The WHL’s response was to start reporting all injuries as being of the upper- or lower-body variety.
And now, with no point of reference, the WHL wants us to drink the Kool-Aid and believe that brain injuries were down more than 20 per cent this season.
I would suggest that if there was a drop of even 20 per cent, it means that brain injuries were way up — way, way up — in 2011-12 from 2010-11.
It is impossible to document a precise number because the WHL and its teams simply refuse to be truthful about such injuries. However, tracking upper-body injuries and using anecdotal evidence gathered throughout this season, I would suggest there were somewhere between 75 and 110 brain injuries.
Again, this is pure speculation, the numbers having been compiled by perusing the WHL’s weekly injury list and then attempting to research each upper-body injury.
What is known is that a number of players including F Spencer Main of the Kelowna Rockets, F Brayden Cuthbert of the Moose Jaw Warriors and F Shae Howorko of the Swift Current Broncos weren’t able to start the season because of previously incurred brain injuries.
A number of others, including forward Brent Benson of Swift Current, D Albin Blomqvist of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, D Reid Jackson of the Moose Jaw Warriors, G Daniel Wapple of Moose Jaw, F Phil Tot of the Tri-City Americans and F Tyrel Seaman of the Brandon Wheat Kings were shut down during the season to allow them more time to recover from brain injuries.
Two years ago, the WHL announced a “Seven-Point Plan” aimed at reducing brain injuries.
Then, following its annual meeting a year ago, the league said in a news release: “Despite a slight increase in concussions, the WHL remains confident the Seven Point Plan will assist in reducing concussions in the future.”
In the same news release, commissioner Ron Robison stated that the league actually expected that increase.
“We anticipated the rate of concussions may increase this past season as there is more emphasis being placed now than ever before on the care and treatment of concussion injuries,” Robison stated. “We remain confident that the WHL's Seven Point Plan will address this matter effectively and reduce concussions in the seasons ahead.”
Of course, no one from the WHL has said exactly how many brain injuries were suffered during that 2011-12 season. So, again, there is no point of reference.
We aren’t likely to find out how many there were in 2012-13 either because the WHL continues to hide the numbers.
But, as mentioned, that total would appear to be between 75 and 110, and that’s far too many, especially if you are one of the unfortunate young men who has ended up with a brain injury that may have a long-term impact on your life.
But until the WHL chooses to become more transparent and provide hard numbers, we will never know what is really happening.
The WHL’s news release from its annual meeting that benefited the economy of Vancouver also mentioned:
1. The league will use video replay “in the offensive zone to review goal situations when a player may have scored as a result of a hand pass or high stick.” This change is too late to help the Swift Current Broncos who lost a home playoff game in OT because the on-ice officials missed a gloved pass in the goal area that resulted in a goal.
2. The league is using a “new computer assisted scheduling system.” . . . The exhibition schedule is to be released June 25, with the regular-season schedule to follow the next day.
1. The Tri-City Americans have acquired F Jessey Astles, 20, from the Saskatoon Blades for a conditional sixth-round selection in the 2014 bantam draft. Astles had two points in 26 games with the Blades. He missed a lot of the season after suffering a skate cut to one wrist during a November game against the Regina Pats. The injury required surgery. Astles, a sixth-round selection by Kelowna in the 2008 bantam draft, played three seasons with the Rockets He was dealt to the Blades last summer.
2. The Americans now have six 1993-born players on their roster. The others are F Tyson Dallman, F Lukas Walter, D Zach Yuen, D Mitch Topping and G Luke Lee-Knight. . . . The Blades, meanwhile, have 13, but two of those are imports. . . . Teams are allowed to carry three 20-year-olds after a mid-October deadline.
3. The Prince Albert Raiders have signed F Lance Yaremchuk, a local lad who led the Saskatchewan midget AAA league in goals (38) with his hometown Mintos this season. Yaremchuk, a sixth-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft, is a 1996-born player. He had 63 points, leaving him fourth in the league scoring race.
4. Dan Lambert, who is prepping for his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Kelowna Rockets, has been named head coach of Team West, the Manitoba-Saskatchewan combines who will play in the U17 World Hockey Challenge in Cape Breton, Dec. 28 through Jan. 5. . . . Lambert, 43, replaces Malcolm Cameron, who stepped aside after being named head coach of the Regina Pats last month.
5. Lambert, then a defenceman with the Swift Current Broncos, played for a similar U17 team that met a touring Soviet side in a three-game series late in 1986. It was while he was with that team that the Broncos’ bus crashed, on Dec. 30, 1986, killing four of his teammates. . . . The book that is linked to at the top right of this page — Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos — is about that crash and all that happened afterwards.
6. The OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have signed general manager Kyle Dubas to a two-year extension, taking him through 2015-16. Dubas, 27, is a Sault Ste. Marie native who signed with the team in April 2011. . . . Earlier, the Greyhounds picked up an option on head coach Sheldon Keefe and now have him signed through 2014-15.
7. Doug Harrison of CBC Sports has spoken with Sherry Bassin, the majority owner and general manager, of the OHL’s Erie Otters about the CHL’s decision to prohibit European goaltenders. That story is right here.
Bassin, who has been around since they flooded the ice with water barrels and gunnysacks, talks a lot about the lack of coaching provided to goaltenders in minor hockey.
But at the end of the story he opens another can of worms by telling Harrison that it wouldn’t surprise him if all European players were prohibited from playing in the CHL in the not-too-distant future.
8. The Grand Rapids Griffins closed to within one victory of the AHL championship with a 4-2 victory over the visiting Syracuse Crunch last night. . . . The Griffins lead the best-of-seven final for the Calder Cup, 3-0. Game 4 is scheduled for Friday night in Grand Rapids. . . . F Jan Mursak broke a 2-2 tie at 15:11 of the third period. . . . Game 4 will be available on AHL Live, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, and ESPN America). Game time is 7 p.m. ET. . . . Attendance for Game 3 was 10,102.
9. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has a piece right here speculating on the future of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes. Will they stay, or will they go? And if they go, what is their destination? . . . Interestingly, Campbell has former Tampa Bay Lightning co-owner Oren Koules involved in a group that is “lurking in the background.” . . . Campbell also speculates that the Coyotes could end up relocating to Tacoma. Why Tacoma? Because Seattle’s Key Arena no longer has ice-making equipment or an accessible chilling system. That would precede a move to Seattle, should Chris Hansen get a new arena built for an NBA franchise that he hasn’t yet obtained. . . . Campbell doesn’t suggest an owner should the Coyotes end up Tacoma/Seattle, but I have to wonder if Bill Gallacher, who owns the Portland Winterhawks, would be involved.
THE COACHING GAME:
The OHL’s Ottawa 67’s have added Travis Crickard, 25, to their staff as an assistant coach. A native of St. John’s, N.L., Crickard spent this season as the head coach of the major midget Ottawa Jr. 67’s, who played in the Telus Cup.
Paul Fixter has signed on with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves as the associate coach. He had been with the Kitchener Rangers as assistant GM/associate coach since 2008.
From Guy Flaming (@TPS-Guy): "Petr Mrazek and the Grand Rapids Griffins lead Syracuse 3-0 in the AHL finals. Waiting for AHL to ban Euro goalies now.”
From WHL Facts (@WHLFacts): “#35 - So I propose to have the Euro Netminder ban be dubbed the ‘Bartosak Rule’, since apparently he's too good for the CHL #GoalieOfTheYear”
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