And some observers are beginning to wonder if cracks are starting to show.
As recently as a week ago, the sale of the WHL franchise by long-time owner Rick Brodsky to a group headed by Prince George businessman Greg Pocock was believed to be a slam dunk. Pocock’s group includes NHL defencemen Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis, both of them former Cougars.
But now I am told that nothing has been signed, no money has changed hands, and patience may be wearing thin.
At one time there was a second local group interested in purchasing the Cougars, that one believed to include T.J. Grewal, the father of Cougars defenceman Raymond Grewal.
A source familiar with the situation told me late last night that while Brodsky has been negotiating strictly with the Pocock group, he has had “a thought” about seeing if there is any other interest alive in the community.
True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, has been rumoured as a potential WHL franchise owner, if only because of the success the Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings have had under the ownership umbrella of NHL teams in those cities.
If TNSE, indeed, is interested in owning a franchise, you wonder if it might get involved with Brodsky at this particular time.
F Tim Bozon of the Kootenay Ice is scheduled to be released from Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon this morning.
Bozon, who turned 20 while in RUH, was hospitalized on March 1 when he was diagnosed with Nesseria meningitis. His parents, Helene and Philippe, the latter a former NHL player, have been with him since arriving from their home in Switzerland on March 2.
For part of time, Tim was in critical condition and in a medically induced coma.
Also on Thursday, Bozon tweeted this:
“Would like to thank everyone for this amazing support! Couldn't do it without you guys! Thank you so much from everyone in the @TheWHL”
“And most important my teammates in @WHLKootenayICE that have been with me since day one #loveyouguys”
It is anticipated that Bozon will be in Cranbrook in time to take in Game 6 of the Ice’s first-round series with the Calgary Hitmen. A 6-5 victory in Calgary on Thursday night has the Ice leading the best-of-seven affair, 3-2. Bozon is to take part in a ceremonial faceoff prior to that game.
A trust fund has been established to assist the Bozon family with medical- and rehabilitation-related costs with which they now are faced.
You are able to make a donation at any BMO Bank of Montreal branch in Western Canada.
Should you live outside of that area and want to donate, please mail donations to:
Western Hockey League
c/o Tim Bozon
Father David Bauer Arena
2424 University Drive NW
Meanwhile, in Brandon, Wheat Kings F Jayce Hawryluk spent a lot of Thursday undergoing tests at the Brandon Regional Health Centre.
Hawryluk was taken to the hospital in an ambulance on Wednesday night, after he scored
Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun reported Thursday evening that “optimism and relief are slowly replacing the worry” over Hawryluk’s situation.
“We don’t know a lot today other than everything’s gone well,” Kelly McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings’ owner, general manager and head coach, told Henderson. “Jayce is completely normal, feeling fine. Of course, they’re doing lots of different tests to see if there’s anything that they can identify as a concern or a cause of what happened, and we haven’t been given any feedback as to how any of that has gone other than to have been told there’s no red flags, nothing alarming at this point.
“So we’re optimistic that it’s not as serious as what these things sometimes can be or what you sometimes let your mind fear.”
According to McCrimmon, Hawryluk, who turned 18 on Jan. 1, experienced light-headedness and breathing problems immediately after the game. He is from Roblin, Man., which is about 200 km northwest of Brandon,
The Wheat Kings held a team meeting last night to discuss the situation, with management looking to put the players’ minds at ease.
“I think lots of the players themselves have been in contact with Jayce today, so I think that gives them some peace of mind,” McCrimmon told Henderson.
Hawryluk leads Brandon with eight points in the four games against Regina. He led the Wheat Kings with 64 points in 59 regular-season games.
If you are wondering whether Hawryluk will play in Game 4 tonight, it is in the hands of doctors, who as of last night hadn’t provided team management with any kind of prognosis.
The Seattle Thunderbirds will be without F Jaimen Yakubowski tonight as they travel to Everett in search of a first-round sweep of the Silvertips. . . . Yakubowski drew a one-game WHL suspension after taking a double minor for checking from behind in Game 3 on Tuesday in Kent, Wash. Yakubowski hit Everett D Noah Juulsen in the first period. Juulsen left the game and didn’t return. . . . Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald reports that Juulsen didn’t practice on Thursday, so likely won’t play tonight. . . .
The Kelowna Rockets have a 3-1 series lead going into tonight’s game with the Tri-City Americans. The game will be televised in Canada by Sportsnet. . . . Kelowna F Myles Bell left Game 4 late in the second period with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return. As Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald reported, “The Rockets were not forthcoming about his status for tonight’s game.” . . . Fowler also reports that Tri-City F Jessey Astles “took a puck to the foot at the end” of Game 4. Americans head coach Jim Hiller, who almost always is forthcoming, told Fowler that Astles is expected to play tonight, but may not be well enough to take a regular shift. . . .
The ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors have signed two former WHLers, both of whom played for the Alberta Golden Bears, who won the Canadian university championship on Sunday. D Ian Barteaux (Kootenay, 2005-09) and D Colin Joe (Kelowna, Saskatoon, 2004-09) both played five seasons with the Golden Bears.
THE FIRST ROUND (best-of-seven; all times local):
(x - if necessary)
EDMONTON (1) vs. PRINCE ALBERT (8)
(Edmonton wins, 4-0)
Season series: Edmonton, 2-1-1; Prince Albert, 2-2-0.
Saturday: Prince Albert 3 at Edmonton 5 (6,534)
Sunday: Prince Albert 1 at Edmonton 3 (6,584)
Tuesday: Edmonton 4 at Prince Albert 3 (2,881)
Wednesday: Edmonton 6 at Prince Albert 2 (2,727)
Edmonton: F Brandon Baddock, 3-5 weeks; D Blake Orban, indefinite; F Reid Petryk, day-to-day.
Prince Albert: D Graeme Craig, indefinite.
REGINA (2) vs. BRANDON (7)
(Brandon leads, 3-0)
Season series: Brandon, 5-3-0; Regina, 3-3-2.
Saturday: Brandon 6 at Regina 3 (6,200)
Sunday: Brandon 8 at Regina 4 (5,014)
Wednesday: Regina 4 at Brandon 5 (3,547)
Friday: Regina at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.
x-Saturday: Brandon at Regina, 7 p.m.
x-Monday: Regina vs. Brandon, at Dauphin, Man., 7 p.m.
x-Wednesday: Brandon at Regina, 7 p.m.
Brandon: F Jayce Hawryluk, day-to-day; F Peter Quenneville, day-to-day.
Regina: D Tye Hand, indefinite.
CALGARY (3) vs. KOOTENAY (6)
(Kootenay leads, 3-2)
Season series: Calgary, 4-4-0; Kootenay, 4-2-2.
Thursday: Kootenay 5 at Calgary 2 (6,649)
Saturday: Kootenay 0 at Calgary 5 (9,019)
Monday: Calgary 7 at Kootenay 6 (OT) (1,992)
Tuesday: Calgary 4 at Kootenay 5 (2,102)
Thursday: Kootenay 6 at Calgary 5 (6,826)
Saturday: Calgary at Kootenay, 7 p.m.
x-Monday: Kootenay at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Calgary: F Cal Babych, day-to-day; F Connor Rankin, day-to-day.
Kootenay: F Tim Bozon, indefinite; F Ryan Chynoweth, indefinite; D Tyler King, day-to-day; D Tanner Faith, 3-5 months.
MEDICINE HAT (4) vs. SWIFT CURRENT (5)
(Series tied, 2-2)
Season series: Medicine Hat, 2-2-0; Swift Current, 2-2-0.
Friday: Swift Current 1 at Medicine Hat 2 (3,512)
Saturday: Swift Current 2 at Medicine Hat 4 (3743)
Tuesday: Medicine Hat 1 at Swift Current 3 (2,840)
Wednesday: Medicine Hat 2 at Swift Current 3 (OT) (2,890)
Saturday: Swift Current at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday: Medicine Hat at Swift Current, 7 p.m.
x-Tuesday: Swift Current at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.
Medicine Hat: F Anthony Ast, indefinite; F Gavin Broadhead, day-to-day; F Hunter Shinkaruk, indefinite.
Swift Current: None.
KELOWNA (1) vs. TRI-CITY (8)
(Kelowna leads, 3-1)
Season series: Kelowna, 4-4-0; Tri-City, 0-3-1.
Saturday: Tri-City 1 at Kelowna 3 (5,827)
Sunday: Tri-City 1 at Kelowna 3 (5,041)
Tuesday: Kelowna 3 at Tri-City 4 (2,010)
Wednesday: Kelowna 5 at Tri-City 3 (2,189)
Friday: Tri-City at Kelowna, 7:30 p.m.
x-Saturday: Kelowna at Tri-City, 7:05 p.m.
x-Tuesday: Tri-City at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
(NOTE: Tri-City plays home games in Kennewick, Wash.)
Kelowna: D Jesse Lees, indefinite.
Tri-City: F Taylor Vickerman, indefinite.
PORTLAND (2) vs. VANCOUVER (7)
(Portland wins, 4-0)
Season series: Portland, 4-0-0; Vancouver, 0-3-1.
Friday: Vancouver 3 at Portland 4 (9,756)
Saturday: Vancouver 0 at Portland 3 (10,947)
Tuesday: Portland 6 at Vancouver 3 (5,680)
Wednesday: Portland 6 at Vancouver 1 (5,142)
Vancouver: F Tyler Benson, indefinite; G Jared Rathjen, day-to-day; F Jakob Stukel, indefinite; D Dalton Thrower, indefinite.
VICTORIA (3) vs. SPOKANE (6)
(Victoria wins, 4-0)
Season series: Victoria, 1-3-0; Spokane, 3-1-0.
Saturday: Spokane 1 at Victoria 2 (OT) (6,615)
Sunday: Spokane 3 at Victoria 4 (OT) (4,629)
Wednesday: Victoria 6 at Spokane 1 (3,412)
Thursday: Victoria 4 at Spokane 2 (3,711)
Spokane: D Colton Bobyk, week-to-week; F Adam Hascic, day-to-day; F Blair Oneschuk, week-to-week.
SEATTLE (4) vs. EVERETT (5)
(Seattle leads, 3-0)
Season series: Seattle, 5-4-1; Everett, 5-4-1.
Saturday: Everett 1 at Seattle 2 (4,650)
Sunday: Seattle 3 at Everett 1 (4,150)
Tuesday: Everett 3 at Seattle 4 (OT) (5,176)
Friday: Seattle at Everett, 7:35 p.m.
x-Saturday: Everett at Seattle, 7:05 p.m.
x-Monday: Seattle at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
x-Wednesday: Everett at Seattle, 7:05 p.m.
(NOTE: Seattle plays home games in Kent, Wash.)
Seattle: F Connor Honey, indefinite.
Everett: F Kohl Baum, indefinite; D Noah Juulsen, day-to-day; F Tyler Sandhu, day-to-day.
In Calgary, F Sam Reinhart had a goal and four assists to help the Kootenay Ice to a 6-5 victory over the Hitmen. . . . The Ice leads the series 3-2 and has an opportunity to win it at home on Saturday night. . . . Calgary got on the board first, when F Adam Tambellini scoed at 2:04 of the first period, on a PP. It was the fourth time in five games that Calgary scored first. . . . The Ice scored the next three goals and the Hitmen chased for the rest of the night. . . . F Jaeden Descheneau, who had two goals and an assist, tied the game at 5:56 of the first, via the PP, and Reinhart made it 2-1 at 19:15. . . . Ice F Levi Cable stretched the lead to 3-1 just 55 seconds into the second period. . . . Calgary F Elliott Peterson got one back at 2:44, but Ice F Matt Alfaro restored the two-goal lead at 5:18, at which time Calgary G Chris Drieder, who gave up four goals on 10 shots, was relieved by Mack Shields, who would stop 10 of 14. . . . Ice F Luke Philp, at 6:23, and Calgary D Kenton Helgesen, at 18:28, on the PP, traded goals and the Ice had a 5-3 lead. . . . Descheneau then scored what seemed a controversial goal as TV replays appeared to show no time left on the clock when the puck crossed the goal line. However, the goal was allowed after video review, with the WHL later explaining that there was a discrepancy between the official clock and the one seen on the TV replays. . . . Calgary scored twice in the third period, with F Greg Chase and Tambellini each getting their fourth of the series, but it wasn’t able to equalize. . . . Ice G Wyatt Hoflin went the distance, stopping 26 shots. That included an unsuccessful penalty shot by Helgesen. . . . Calgary was 2-for-5 on the PP; Kootenay was 1-for-4. . . . Ice D Landon Cross, who came back from an undisclosed injury during the series and then left Game 4 with an apparent injury, was back for this one. . . . These two teams have combined for 45 goals in five games, with Calgary owning 23 of them. . . . Reinhart has been in on 14 of the Ice’s 22 goals; he leads playoff scorers with 14 points. Descheneau has 13. . . . Reinhart and F Brendan Leipsic of the Portland Winterhawks lead in goals (5). Descheneau and Reinhart lead in assists (9).
Here is the statement from the WHL office on Descheneau’s second goal, which stood up as the game-winner:
“The video evidence in the Video Goal Judge booth clearly showed the puck had crossed the line with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock. The Video Goal Judge booth is considered the official time clock when reviewing goals and is the same system utilized by the NHL.”
Alan Caldwell (@smallatlarge), who operates the blog Small Thoughts at Large, tweeted: “So a clock seen by only 1 or 2 people is the official time and what the rest of the world sees is not. There has to be a better system.”
Caldwell followed that with: “It may be the right call but the optics of this are terrible for the league.”
In Spokane, the Victoria Royals won a series for the first time in franchise history, beating the Chiefs 4-2 to sweep the first-round affair. . . . The Royals, the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed, are likely to meet the No. 2 Portland Winterhawks in the second round. . . . Royals F Austin Carroll broke a 2-2 tie with his third goal of the series, and second winner, at 10:06 of the third period. . . . F Logan Nelson, 20, who was scratched from Game 1, scored his third goal of the series to add insurance at 15:41. He also had an assist, as did Carroll. . . . Spokane D Tyson Helgesen scored his first playoff goal for Spokane, at 19:02 of the first period and also had an assist. Oddly, he scored about the same time that his brother, Kenton, was scoring for the Hitmen in Calgary. . . The Royals led 2-1 after the first period and took that lead into the third, when F Connor Chartier pulled the Chiefs even at 3:32. . . . Victoria D Jordan Franson had a goal, his second, and an assist, while F Steven Hodges drew two assists. . . . Spokane F Mitch Holmberg, the WHL’s regular-season scoring champ, was held to one assist in the four games. In four regular-season games against the Royals, Holmberg and F Mike Aviani had a combined 22 points. Aviani had two assists in the series. . . . “"They say good players find holes and I didn't find them this series," Holmberg told Chris Derrick of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. "It's going to haunt me for a while, that's for sure." . . . Victoria G Patrik Polivka stopped 32 shots, while Spokane’s Eric Williams turned aside 17. . . . The Royals were 0-for-4 on the PP; the Chiefs were 0-for-3. . . . Prior to this series, the Royals had lost two first-round series, while in their previous life as the Chilliwack Bruins they had dropped four first-round series. In those six series, they had gone 6-24.
From Jeff Peel (@peel23): “Good luck to @lpeel34 tonight! Remember: talk is cheap and it takes money to buy oats!”
From Spokane Chiefs F Mitch Holmberg (@mitchholmberg17): “Speechless.”
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