Monday, July 14, 2014

Red Deer, Vancouver, Victoria chasing 2016 Memorial Cup tournament

Cam Hope (right), the general manager of the Victoria Royals,
talks to the media on Monday about his club's bid to play
host to the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament.

(Victoria Royals photo)

F Aaron Gagnon (Seattle, 2001-07) has signed a two-year extension with Lukko Rauma (Finland, Liiga). Last season, with HV71 Jönköping (Sweden, SHL), he had two goals and an assist in nine games. He joined Lukko in October and put up 36 points, 17 of them goals, in 48 games. . . .
D Mike Berube (Prince George, Red Deer, Vancouver, 2004-09) has signed a one-year contract with the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite). Last season, with the Allen Americans (CHL), he had 22 points, including 19 assists, in 66 games. He was the team captain for the CHL champions. . . .
D Zack FitzGerald (Seattle, 2001-05) has signed a one-year contract as player-assistant coach with the Braehead Clan Glasgow (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, he had one assist in 38 games with the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL).
What once was thought to be a one-horse race got a whole lot more interesting on Monday.
That would be the contest to earn the right to play host to the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament, which will be played in a WHL city.
A short time ago, it was believed to be safe to book hotel rooms in Vancouver for the 2016 affair because Giants majority owner Ron Toigo has intimated on more than one occasion that they will be bidding.
But then the Red Deer Rebels expressed an interest, and considering that the Memorial Cup hasn’t been decided in Alberta since 1974, and considering that Alberta is home to five WHL franchises, well, maybe it’s time.
However, Brent Sutter, the owner/general manager and head coach of the Rebels, has said that he wants assurances from the WHL and its board of governors that the host rights will be awarded to the most deserving party and that it won’t simply be awarded based on the highest profit guarantee.
Then, on Monday, word came that the Victoria Royals are preparing a bid, and, just like that, things got really interesting.
The Royals are preparing for their fourth season in B.C.’s capital city and have made impressive strides under general manager Cam Hope, head coach Dave Lowry and director of player personnel Grant Armstrong.
This is a solid organization off the ice, and it has made huge strides on the ice, to the point where it enjoyed its first 100-point season in 2013-14.
The announcement that they will be bidding on the 2016 Memorial Cup marks them as serious players in the WHL. Yes, they are ready to run with the big dogs.
“I think we’d be crazy not to express interest for 2016,” Hope told me in an email exchange yesterday. “Victoria is a great city, with a great hockey community, a great airport, excellent hotels and amenities, and a great arena right downtown.”
Still, Hope doesn’t expect to be awarded the rights in a walk-through.
“At the same time,” he noted, “there are other places in the west that would do a very good job, and so we’ll have to see who else tosses a hat in the ring, and see where we are after that.”
If you have ever been to Victoria at that time of year, well, you know it’s got a lot going for it, especially when winter’s memory still in in the rearview mirror for parts of the country.
The bottom line of all this is that competition is good for everyone, and with three teams now in the hunt, at least in the preliminary stages, well, it’s great news for the WHL.
A winner is scheduled to be announced in October.
The 2015 Memorial Cup will be played in Quebec City, with the QMJHL’s Remparts as host team, from May 21-31.

1. The Prince George Cougars are expected to introduce Todd Harkins as their general manager at a news conference this morning. Harkins, 45, has been the Cougars’ director of player personnel. He has been interim GM since an ownership change earlier this summer in which Dallas Thompson, the team’s long-time GM, wasn’t retained. . . . It also is expected that the Cougars’ new ownership group will announce a contract extension for head coach Mark Holick, who is preparing for his second full season in the position. Holick has two seasons left on the contract he got in January 2013 when he replaced Dean Clark. . . . Holick and Mike Hengen, the Cougars’ new assistant coach, will be in attendance at today’s news conference.

2. The Portland Winterhawks have five prospects on the Team USA roster for the U-17 Five Nations tournament that is scheduled for Crimmitschau, Germany, Aug. 13-17. . . . F Kieffer Bellows, F Hank Crone, F Mitch Mattson, D Sam Rossini and F Garrett Wait all were named to the team. . . . Bellows, from Edina, Minn., is the son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, Kieffer was a seventh-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. He played high school hockey in Edina last season and has committed to Boston U. . . . Crone, from Dallas, also has committed to Boston U. He is expected to play this season with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. . . . Mattson, from Grand Rapids, Minn., has committed to the U of North Dakota. . . . Rossini, from Inver Grove Heights, Minn., has committed to the U of Minnesota and is expected to play this season for the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks. . . . Wait, from Edina, Minn., was selected by Portland in the eighth round of the 2013 bantam draft. He was a teammate of Bellows’ at Edina High last season. . . . The Team USA roster was selected after a week-long USA Hockey Select Festival in Williamsville, New York. . . . There’s more on the U.S. team right here.

3. With the Regina Pats searching for a head coach, Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post chose to play the Name Game. Take a look right here to see who may be in line for the Regina head-coaching position.

4. George Johnson of the Calgary Herald spent the last few weeks in Brazil covering the World Cup. As he leaves Rio, he recalls the good, the bad and the ugly, and it’s all right here.

5. FIFA showed during the World Cup that it has a long way to go in terms of keeping its players safe. For starters, it has a lot of work to do on its concussion protocol, if it even has such. John E. Hoover takes a look at FIFA and brain injuries right here.

6. With Derek Jeter poised to lead off for the AL in tonight’s All-Star Game, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes: “The mystery of Derek Jeter has always been: Who’s behind the near-perfect facade, the movie-star smile and the impenetrable reserve, almost worthy of DiMaggio? How do you survive nearly 20 years in New York without any serious controversy, not a mark worth mentioning against your name?” . . . Boswell’s column is right here.

7. Sexual assaults on college campuses has come out of the shadows and turned into a huge problem. The New York Times takes a look right here at one such situation and how a college handled it. No, it isn’t pretty.

8. After The New York Times story hit the Internet and the streets, the college in question issued a news release. Of course, it tried to shoot the messenger. That news release is right here.

 The Dallas Stars have signed D Julius Honka of the Swift Current Broncos to a three-year entry-level NHL contract. Honka, who is from Finland, was the 14th overall pick in the NHL’s 2014 draft. He had 56 points, including 16 goals, in 62 regular-season games with the Broncos last season as a freshman.
The Chicago Blackhawks have added Kevin Dineen to their coaching staff as an assistant under head coach Joel Quenneville. Dineen, who was the head coach of the Canadian women’s team that won gold at the Sochi Olympics, replaces Jamie Kompon, who left to become GM/head coach of the Portland Winterhawks.
The Detroit Red Wings now have lost two of their assistant coaches from last season. Bill Peters left earlier in the summer and now is the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. Tom Renney will be introduced today as the president of Hockey Canada, replacing Bob Nicholson. . . . Tony Granato is expected to be one of the Red Wings’ new assistant coaches. He was on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ staff last season.
Toby Petersen has joined the Springfield Falcons as an assistant coach. The Falcons are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. . . . Petersen, 35, retired following last season when he played for the Calder Cup-winning Texas Stars, the AHL champions.
Simon Ferguson is the new head coach of the major midget Okanagan Rockets, who play in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League and are based in Kelowna. . . . Ferguson (Lethbridge, Kelowna, 1999-2004) retired from playing after the 2012-13 season. He played nine seasons as a pro, making stops in the AHL, ECHL, Denmark and Austria. . . . Ferguson, 31, was part of a Memorial Cup championship with Kelowna (2003-04) and an AHL championship with the Hershey Bears (2009-10). . . . Ferguson takes over from Mack O’Rourke, who left for a non-hockey job in Calgary. . . . David Michaud is returning as the club’s general manager. . . . The Rockets are the defending B.C. champions. They won the Pacific Regional tournament before finishing third at the Telus Cup national championship in Moose Jaw.
Jim Armstrong is the new head coach of the junior B North Okanagan Knights of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Armstrong takes over from Shawn Webb, who resigned in May. . . . The Knights play out of Armstrong, B.C. . . . No, Armstrong wasn’t named after Armstrong, no matter which way you look at it. . . . Roger Knox of the Vernon Morning Star has more right here.
The Castlegar, B.C.-based Selkirk College Saints have promoted Alex Evin from assistant coach to head coach following the departure of Jeff Dubois, who now is the head coach of the junior B Creston Valley Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . The Saints won two straight B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League titles under Dubois. . . . Evin, 27, is from Castlegar. . . . Bob Hall of the Nelson Daily News has more right here.

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