Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Americans get their man . . . Memorial Cup field set

Rufus, a Rufous Hummingbird, stopped for a breather
in our apple on Tuesday. Said he was on his way home
from Portland and Game 7.







 F Denis Tolpeko (Seattle, Regina, 2003-06) has signed a two-year contract extension with Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Russia, KHL). Tolpeko started this season with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (Russia, KHL), before being traded to Salavat Yulaev on Jan 13. In 45 games, he had 11 points, including five goals. . . .
F Steven Goertzen (Seattle, 2001-04) has signed a one-year contract with the Coventry Blaze (England, UK Elite). This season, with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite), he had 38 points, 12 of them goals, in 45 games. He was the interim player-head coach for two weeks in February. . . .
D Brett Bartman (Spokane, 2007-10) signed a one-year contract with Gap (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with the U of Calgary (CIS), he had 11 points, including two gaols, in 26 games. . . .
D Rod Sarich (Calgary, 1996-2002) has signed a one-year contract with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite). Sarich, who has a UK passport, didn’t play this season but stayed in Sheffield, attending university and working. In 2012-13, he had 37 points, seven of them goals, in 57 games with Sheffield. He was pointless in three games with Great Britain’s national team. . . .
D Shaone Morrisonn (Kamloops, 1999-2002) has signed a one-year contract with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, KHL). This season, with TPS Turku (Finland, Liiga), he had 16 points, including four goals, in 54 games. He was an alternate captain with TPS Turku. . . .
F Dustin Johner (Seattle, 1999-2004) has signed a contract (one year plus an option) with Västerås (Sweden, Allsvenskan). This season, with Djurgården Stockholm (Sweden, Allsvenskan), he had 37 points, including 17 goals, in 52 games. He tied for the team lead in goals and points.
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The WHL’s game of coaching musical chairs continued Tuesday as the Tri-City Americans signed Mike Williamson as their head coach.
Contract details weren’t announced, other than it being a multi-year proposition, but I am told that Williamson signed a four-year deal with no club options. He had spent the previous five seasons with the Calgary Hitmen, who chose not to pick up a club option when this season ended.
The Hitmen enjoyed a 103-point regular season -- they finished tied with the Edmonton Oil Kings atop the Eastern Conference, losing top spot on a tiebreaker -- then lost a six-game first-round playoff series to the Kootenay Ice.
Williamson was dropped shortly after that.
With the Americans, Williamson takes over from Jim Hiller, who was dumped last week despite a five-season winning percentage of .619. General manager Bob Tory said at the time that he felt his team was in need of a new face/new voice behind the bench.
Williamson spent seven seasons plus 24 games (1999-07) as the head coach of the Portland Winterhawks, a team with which he had played three seasons. He also spent four-plus seasons as an assistant coach in Portland.
He has 427 victories as a WHL head coach, making him third among active coaches. He is ninth all-time in games coached and 11th in victories.
“I have known (Williamson), personally, since he was a 17-year-old player who I recruited to Portland from Red Deer College,” Tory said in a news release. “He has had tremendous success at the WHL level and is known as a player’s coach who is demanding yet firm and calm. Mike brings a great deal of experience and passion to our hockey club and I look forward to working with Mike moving forward.”
Earlier this month, Don Hay left after 10 years as head coach of the Vancouver Giants, returning to his home in Kamloops as head coach of the Blazers.
All of this leaves the Hitmen, Giants and Saskatoon Blades searching for head coaches.
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1. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Al Ford, a former general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, after he was mugged by a couple of idiots in Regina on Monday. He should just pretend that he got run over by George Reed during a practice session back in the day. . . . There’s more on what happened right here.

2. D Jordan Thomson has told the Saskatoon Blades that he will join them for the 2014-15 season. Thomson, from Wawanesa, Man., was selected by the Kamloops Blazers with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 bantam draft. However, he left the Blazers early this season and ended up with the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings. He did get into nine games with the Blades, getting a goal and five assists. . . . The Blades acquired Thomson, F Mitch Lipon and a 2015 first-round bantam pick from Kamloops in exchange for F Matt Revel, a third-round 2016 bantam draft pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2014 or 2015. The Blazers will get that 2015 second-round pick if Thomson plays one game for the Blades in 2014-15. . . . Lipon was dropped by the Blades as they made room for new players during the bantam draft on May 1.

3. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, the stars of the ESPN show PTI, have gotten multi-year contract extensions. If you haven’t seen PTI, Kornheiser and Wilbon sit in front of TV cameras and do what we did in the sports departments of the Winnipeg Tribune and Regina Leader-Post almost every night -- sit around and argue about sports. I think Kornheiser and Wilbon likely are getting paid more than we were.

4. The NFL draft ran for two nights and most of another day, all of it available on TV. If you weren’t aware, the CFL draft was held Tuesday evening and TSN televised an hour of it, right up against Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Yes, that’s one more page of that CFL’s manual titled Football Marketing 101. . . . Sheesh, why not hold it on Saturday afternoon and get it all on TV? It’s not like the CFL teams make 268 selections.

5. An afternoon tweet from the Prince George Cougars (@PGCougars): “Robison: The WHL never considered leaving Prince George.” . . . WHL commissioner Ron Robison, in Prince George to take part in a day in which the Cougars’ new owners introduced themselves to the fans, apparently made that statement to the gathering. . . . Rick Brodsky, who sold the franchise last month, certainly thought about it. There were talks with the people who run the arena in Boise, Idaho, and then there were thoughts of relocating to Chilliwack. Yes, there were conversations with at least one of the former owners of the Bruins, although those talks didn’t go too well. Oh, and Brodsky also looked into a move to Fort McMurray, Alta., something that would have involved the construction of a new arena. . . . So perhaps it all depends on how you define “considered.”

6. The Rangers were clinging to a 2-1 lead over the host Penguins when my wife said dinner was two minutes from being ready. There was 3:30 to play, so I asked if it could wait for five minutes. . . . She asked: “Is that real time?” . . . I said: “Yes.” . . . She replied: “It’s a good thing it’s not basketball time or it would take an hour.” . . . Who knew she paid such close attention to NBA games?

7. The Val-d’Or Foreurs went into Baie-Comeau and beat the Drakkar 4-3 in Game 7 of the QMJHL’s championship series on Tuesday night. . . . The Drakkar erased a 3-0 deficit in the third period, only to have Val-d’Or F Anthony Mantha score the GWG at 19:09. . . . It is the Foreurs’ third title (1998 and 2001) and, as Willy Palov of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald noted: “Pretty impressive for a small-market franchise.” . . . Mantha put up 38 points, 24 of them goals, in 24 playoff games, but the QMJHL playoff scoring title went to F Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads. He had 41 points in 16 games.

8. It’s a good day when Stan Van Gundy is back in the NBA as a head coach. As ESPN Stats & Info tweeted: “Stan Van Gundy to coach Pistons. He's had 5 50-win seasons and no losing seasons as an NBA head coach.”

9. One of my favourite people in all of hockey is Troy Mick, the always smiling GM and head coach of the BCHL’s Salmon Arm SilverBacks. Unfortunately, we don’t get the opportunity to chat as often as I’d like. This week, Mick is in Vernon watching his son, Logan, play in the RBC Cup with the host Vipers. Yes, Troy, who was part of two junior A national championships with the Vipers, is enjoying being a spectating father this week. . . . There’s more right here.

10. In future seasons, the WHL has to schedule its playoffs so that there is no chance of the final round ending with teams playing Games 6 and 7 on back-to-back nights in different cities. Especially when there were seven days (April 27 through May 2, inclusive) between the end of the third round and the start of the final series. Playing back-to-back games in different cities at that stage of the season isn’t fair to the players, the fans or the product.
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THE COACHING GAME:
NAHLJohn LaFontaine (Nanaimo Islanders, 1982-83) is the new head coach of the NAHL’s Wichita Wildcats. He had been coaching the Shattuck St. Mary’s bantam team in Faribault, Minn. He also spent seven seasons as head coach of the Bozeman Icedogs, who played in the America West League and the NAHL while he was with them. . . . LaFontaine takes over from Paul Baxter (Winnipeg, 1973-74), who is president and general manager in Wichita.
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CHLKevin McClelland, the head coach of the Central Hockey League’s Wichita Thunder, signed a one-year contract extension taking him through the 2015-16 season. . . . McClelland, 51, is preparing for his fifth season in Wichita, having signed with the Thunder on April 26, 2010. . . . The Thunder is 144-94-26 with him behind the bench. . . . McClelland’s resume includes a stint with the Prince Albert Raiders (1998-2000).
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Josh Hepditch has left the junior B Creston Valley Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League to join the junior A Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers of the Maritimes Junior League. . . . Hepditch, who is from Fredericton, N.B., and played five seasons at the U of New Brunswick, spent two seasons in Creston, the last one as GM and head coach. . . . Hepditch takes over from Jim Bottomley, who was dumped after this season. Bottomley has since signed on as GM/head coach of the MHL’s Yarmouth Mariners.
Darrell Cole of the Cumberland News Now has more right here.
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MEMORIAL CUP
(at London, Ont., all times Eastern)
(all games televised by Sportsnet)
Friday: Val-d’Or vs. London, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Guelph vs. Edmonton, 4 p.m.
Sunday: London vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Monday: Guelph vs. Val-d’Or, 7 p.m.
Tuesday: Edmonton vs. Val-d’Or, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 21: London vs. Guelph, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 22: Tiebreaker, if necessary, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 23: Semifinal, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 24: No game scheduled.
Sunday, May 25: Final, TBA.
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From former NHL D Nick Boynton (@NICKBOYNTON24): “Hey nhl brilliant letting Matt Cooke play again. Someone have to die first?? No excuse now.”
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From MLB pitcher Mark Mulder (@markmulder20): “You want to stop TJ injuries----then don't play baseball. Kids pitch year round and don't play other sports. Arm only has so many bullets.”
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From Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC): “Surprised to see Kailer Yamamoto ('98) sign w/ Spokane. Regardless, he was one of my NTDP Camp surprises. Packs a lot of skill w/ small size.”
Yamamoto, from Spokane, played for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings minor midget team. He was a fifth-round pick by the Chiefs in the 2013 bantam draft. His older brother, Keanu, just completed his first season with the Chiefs.

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