Thursday, April 17, 2014

Let the Abbotsford rumours begin . . .

Dan Kinvig of the Abbotsford News reports that “the commissioner of the Western Hockey League says the major junior circuit has interest in Abbotsford as a potential market.” . . . In a story that is right here, Kinvig reports that commissioner Ron Robison said the WHL is not going to expand and “does not have any pending applications for relocation from existing franchises.” . . . All of which would seem to cut down on the odds of Abbotsford getting a WHL franchise in the near future.
Earlier this week, the city of Abbotsford and its AHL franchise, the Heat, announced that the Heat would be leaving after this season, with the city having paid $5.5 million to terminate its agreement with the team. That deal, under which the city underwrote losses suffered by the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, had five years left on it.
Robison told Kinvig:
"We are familiar with the building – it's an outstanding facility, and it's a market we have interest in. At this particular stage, we do not have any future plans for expansion, so the only way we would consider Abbotsford would be through the relocation of one of our existing teams.
"But having said that, we always continue to look to explore other options in the event we do have a request for relocation. Certainly, we'll put Abbotsford on our list and do some further due diligence as to its potential for a WHL franchise."
With the commissioner having opened this can of worms, let’s cut to the chase, shall we.
Which WHL franchise/franchises do you think is/are ripe for relocation?
OK, let’s take the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos out of the conversation. Those franchises are community-owned and aren’t going anywhere.
The Prince George Cougars are in the process of being sold and they are staying put.
In the East Division, the Saskatoon Blades changed hands during this season and aren’t relocating. Neither are the Brandon Wheat Kings nor Regina Pats, although there again are strong rumours that the Pats will be sold before another season arrives, perhaps to Calgary oil interests.
None of the other B.C. Division teams -- the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Vancouver Giants or Victoria Royals -- would seem a likely candidate for a move.
The Everett Silvertips, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans, all of whom reside in the U.S. Division, are five of the league’s strongest franchises.
The Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings, both owned by NHL teams, finished atop the Central Division and aren’t moving anywhere. The same holds true for the Medicine Hat Tigers and Red Deer Rebels.
Yes, that leaves the Kootenay Ice.
Jeff Chynoweth, the Ice’s majority owner, president, governor and general manager, has issued repeated denials whenever he has been asked if he is working to sell the franchise or to relocate it.
It wasn’t that long ago when a rumour had Chynoweth relocating the Ice to Lethbridge with the Hurricanes moving to Winnipeg. Yes, there were more denials.
Robison’s comments to Kinvig almost certainly will result in more smoke but no flames, and there will be still more denials from Chynoweth.

If you are thinking about attending the fourth annual Hockey Coaches Conference, powered by Hockey Now, you should know that the deadline for the early bird special arrives on Sunday.
The conference is scheduled for July 18 and 19 at the Doug Mitchell Sports Centre at the University of British Columbia.
The early bird cost is $250 plus GST; the regular price is $349.99 plus GST.
Aaron Wilbur of the HCC assures me that the names of presenters will begin being released next week. In the past, though, the likes of Ray Ferraro, Ken Hitchcock and Mike Keenan have been involved.
For more info, visit the website right here, or click on the ad at the top of this page.
G Cole Cheveldave, who played out his eligibility with the Prince Albert Raiders this season, has decided he will attend St. Mary’s U in Halifax and play for the Huskies. . . . Cheveldave, who will turn 21 on June 8, is from Calgary. He played two seasons with the Kamloops Blazers, who dealt him to the Raiders before this season began. With the Raiders, he was 23-24-3, 3.57, .892. . . . Last season, he helped get the Blazers to the Western Conference final. He was 36-16-2, 2.38, .908 in the regular season and 9-6, 2.80, .901 in the playoffs.
D Dennis Cholowski, a 16-year-old from Langley, B.C., has committed to the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs for next season. He played this season at Yale Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., and did get into one game with the Chiefs. . . . Cholowski suffered a broken arm and hand, which limited him to 12 games, during which he scored 16 points. . . . Cholowski was selected in by the Prince George Cougars in the 10th round of the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft.
Rick Williams was a defenceman who played with the Saskatoon Blades and Victoria Cougars (1971-74). “Last year,” writes Heather Yourex of Global Calgary, “at the age of 59, Rick was forced to move into long term care.” . . . In recent years, Williams, who suffered a number of concussions during his hockey career, showed all the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). . . . Friends are holding a fundraiser on May 3, hoping to provide some financial help for Williams’ care costs and for CTE research. . . . Yourex’s report is right here.
There is more information right here on the fundraiser.
The AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons fired general manager and head coach Gord Thibodeau on Thursday. He had been with the Oil Barons for 12 seasons, winning the AJHL title eight years ago. . . . This season, the Oil Barons compiled the AJHL’s second-best regular-season record, their 45-11-4 better only by the Spruce Grove Saints (47-10-3). The Oil Barons’ season ended earlier this month when they lost Game 7 of the North Division final to Spruce Grove. . . . The Oil Barons are the host team for the 2015 Crescent Point Western Canada Cup.

THE THIRD ROUND (best-of-seven; all times local):
(x - if necessary)
Season series: Kelowna, 4-0-0; Portland, 0-4-0.
Friday: Portland at Kelowna, 7:30 p.m. (Sportsnet)
Saturday: Portland at Kelowna, 7 p.m.
Tuesday: Kelowna at Portland (Moda Center), 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Kelowna at Portland (Moda Center), 7 p.m.
x-Friday, April 25: Portland at Kelowna, 7 p.m.
x-Sunday, April 27: Kelowna at Portland, 5 p.m.
x-Tuesday, April 29: Portland at Kelowna, 7 p.m.
Kelowna: F Myles Bell, week-to-week.
Portland: None.
Season series: Edmonton, 5-0-1; Medicine Hat, 1-5-0.
(All games on Shaw TV)
Friday: Medicine Hat/Kootenay at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Medicine Hat/Kootenay at Edmonton, 4 p.m.
Tuesday: Edmonton at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Edmonton at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.
x-Saturday, April 26: Medicine Hat at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
x-Monday, April 28: Edmonton at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.
x-Tuesday, April 29: Medicine Hat at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Edmonton: D Blake Orban, day-to-day.
Medicine Hat: F Anthony Ast, day-to-day; F Gavin Broadhead, day-to-day; F Hunter Shinkaruk, indefinite.

From WHL Facts (@WHLFacts), with the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues into OT: “136:56 - In case you forgot ... Back in 2003, @WHLKootenayICE alum Adam Cracknell (@ACracknell79) played in the WHL's longest game in history.”
Cracknell now is with the Blues.
From Adam Cracknell (@ACracknell79), in response to WHL Facts: “Did you also know. I did not also play ONE shift. So I had the best seat for the longest game also. #truestory”

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