Sunday, August 31, 2014

WHL taking stand on players who leave? . . . Giants lose sophomore to injury

Reid Duke is back. Macoy Erkamps isn’t.
Neither are Carson Bolduc, Landon Cross, Reid Gow, Geordie Maguire, Jeremy McIntosh, Landon Peel, Aspen Sterzer, Cole Wedman or Brett Zarowny.
The afore-mentioned 11 players didn’t report to their WHL teams for the beginning of training camps.
Erkamps has asked the Lethbridge Hurricanes to trade him. Cross and Peel have told the Kootenay Ice that they want to play their 20-year-old seasons in the MJHL. Bolduc, 18, has left the Kamloops Blazers and joined his hometown’s BCHL team, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks. Others have chosen to get started on life after the WHL, mostly by becoming fulltime university students.
Duke, an 18-year-old forward, was the fifth overall selection in the 2011 bantam draft. He didn’t report for the start of Lethbridge’s training camp, but rejoined his teammates on Friday, general manager Brad Robson saying that an “agreement” had been reached between the team, Duke, his family and his agent.
Only those involved know what is in that “agreement,” or whether it’s verbal or in writing, or anything else about it.
While the 19-year-old Erkamps sits and waits, you wonder if Robson, who had a number of players ask out last season, didn’t draw a line in the sand with Duke and decide that the next trade would be made on his terms.
Meanwhile, in Cranbrook, Jeff Chynoweth, the president and general manager of the Ice, is trying to cope with the loss of two 20-year-old defencemen, only one of whom likely would have made the roster, what with teams being allowed to keep three 20s.
(The Ice has 20-year-old forwards Levi Cable and Austin Vetterl in camp, and may get G Mackenzie Skapski, 20, back from the NHL’s New York Rangers.)
Chynoweth actually found out in June that Cross, a Brandon native who had brain injury issues after being acquired from Kamloops early last season, wasn’t coming back. Cross wants to complete his junior eligibility with the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons.
Losing Peel, who is from Virden, Man., was a bigger shock because no one in the Ice office saw it coming. He wants to play for the MJHL’s Portage Terriers, the host team for the 2015 RBC Cup tournament.
The WHL isn’t happy with players who walk away before their eligibility is up.
“I think (the WHL is) concerned about players not fulfilling their contracts,” Chynoweth told Jeff Hollick, the radio voice of the Ice who blogs at Between The Lines. “When they signed their contracts, they’re for five years, usually from 16 to 20 and includes their 20-year-old season. . . . We’ve got to stick together as the Western Hockey League and the 22 teams because if players just want to walk whenever they can, it doesn’t bode well for our future.”
For now, Cross and Peel are on the Ice’s suspended list “for not reporting to camp and (not) fulfilling their 20-year-old year of their WHL Standard Contract,” Chynoweth said. “How long the suspensions last, I don't know. But I know the WHL is working with Hockey Manitoba and the Manitoba junior league.”
And then there’s Sterzer, who stunned general manager/head coach Brent Sutter and the Rebels with his decision not to report. Instead, Sterzer will attend the U of Calgary and play for the Dinos. The Rebels had acquired him from Kamloops last season for F Matt Bellerive and a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft.
With Sterzer, however, there are extenuating circumstances. Almost eight years ago, Sterzer, his mother, a brother and a sister were involved in an auto accident. Sterzer’s mother, Franci, was left a quadriplegic. (Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week detailed it all in this 2012 story.)
Sterzer also spent much of 2012-13 dealing with a brain injury and other health-related issues. The result was that he played in only 31 games and missed all of the Blazers’ 15-game playoff run to the Western Conference final.
Last week, Sterzer explained his decision to attend school in an email to the Red Deer Advocate:
“First of all, I would like to say that I really appreciate that I was able to come to Red Deer and finish off my WHL career under coach Sutter.I feel that I learned a lot from him and only wish that I could have had more time to play for him.
“The simple truth is that before I signed my contract to play in the WHL I had several scholarship offers to the NCAA that my parents really wanted me to pursue. I, however, really wanted to play in the WHL, so my parents agreed to support me in playing in the Western League with one condition, which was that I had until I was 19 to catch the eye of a pro club, or I would have to go school.
“In all honesty, there would be nothing more that I would have liked to do than to have had a really successful 20-year-old year as a Rebel, hopefully contributing to an already talented team to perhaps make a cup run. However, I felt that I just could not lobby my family to help support me beyond my agreement with them.
“Personally, I have always loved the game. It is a long grind but aside from the sheer thrill of playing, if things go right, you can hopefully make a living doing what you love at the next level. For me, I am hopefully going on to the next step that may help me fulfill my dreams and obligations at the same time.
“That said, I am looking forward to playing this year at the University of Calgary for the Dinos. I am excited to join a group of excellent seasoned hockey players, coach (Mark) Howell and the staff while being able to pursue my education at the same time. I still hope to catch the eye of a team that post-university might want my skills and services, but for now I am just focusing on how I can add to the Dinos to do my part and to contribute as best I can.
“I have been blessed to have made many good friends in the WHL and hope that each of them will have a great year! As well, I hope the best for the Red Deer Rebels, my former teammates, the staff, the fans, and coach Sutter.”
Aspen Sterzer

All of which didn’t necessarily impress Sutter.
“To play at this level takes a major commitment and he’s not a committed player,” he told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate. “There’s a lot of commitment required to play in the WHL, both on and off the ice, with games, practices, video sessions and all of the travel involved.
“It’s disappointing because we gave up assets to acquire him. He’s quitting on us and it’s a knock to his teammates. It’s tough, but that’s his decision, his choice . . . to play CIS hockey.”
Meachem’s story is right here.

Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province reports that Vancouver Giants sophomore F Ty Ronning has a suspected broken collarbone and “is expected to miss at least six weeks of action.” . . . Ronning, the 15th overall pick in the 2012 bantam draft, was injured on a check by Kamloops D Brady Gaudet in the opening minute of a 5-4 shootout loss to the host Blazers on Friday night. . . . Vancouver head coach Troy Ward said the injury “is going to take a while to heal.” . . . Ronning had 20 points, nine of them goals, in 56 games as a freshman last season. . . . Ewen’s report is right here. . . . A tip of the hat to Ewen, too, as he was inducted into the Vancouver Canadians' Hall of Fame on Saturday. When he isn't covering hockey, Ewen is writing baseball for The Province.
WHL team logoThe Red Deer Rebels appear prepared to head into the season with Rylan Toth, an 18-year-old from Saskatoon, and Taz Burman, a 17-year-old Vancouverite, as their two goaltenders. . . . Burman played in 17 games last season with the Rebels, going 2-6-0/3.85/.884, while Toth has yet to play in a regular-season game. . . . The Rebels are looking to replace Patrik Bartosak, a Czech who played in 145 games over the previous three seasons, including 65 last season and 55 in 2012-13. Bartosak has played out his junior eligibility. He was a fifth-round selection by Los Angeles in the 2013 NHL draft. He has signed a three-year contract with the Kings.
---The Prince George Cougars have signed F Colby McAuley, a list player from Sherwood Park, Alta. McAuley, 18, made his debut with the Cougars on the weekend at a tournament in St. Albert, Alta. In fact, shortly after the Cougars announced his signing, he scored twice as the Cougars dropped a 6-5 OT decision to the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Last season, McAuley had 13 goals and 16 assists in 64 games with the midget AAA Sherwood Park Kings. . . . At one time, McAuley was on the Medicine Hat Tigers’ protected list. They dropped him and he was added by the Cougars. . . . McAuley is one of 18 forwards remaining on the Cougars’ roster.
Steve Coury, the head football coach at Lake Oswego, Ore., High, has suspended 10 players, nine of them starters, for the season’s first three games. . . . Why? . . . Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune reports that he disciplined “a group that broke the team's code of conduct by smoking marijuana during a preseason senior retreat at Welches.” . . . Eggers also reported that Coury “had suspended only three players in his 23 years at Lake Oswego.” . . . Interestingly, Coury told Eggers that six of the team’s eight coaches favoured kicking the players off the team. However, Coury said that he is a “second-chance guy” so chose the suspensions instead. . . . The players, all of them seniors, also were suspended for the first three days of school and must do community service on seven Sundays. . . . Yes, Coury did the right thing. . . . Makes you wonder how other coaches in this age group would react in the same situation.

In St. Albert, Alta., on Sunday night, the Edmonton Oil Kings scored a 3-2 OT victory over the Saskatoon Blades. F Tyler Robertson got the winner at 2:25 of extra time. . . . Les Lazaruk, the radio voice of the Blades, later tweeted that the dry scrape too 11 minutes 21 seconds. . . . Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show was in attendance and tweeted: “The verdict is in on the dry scrape before OT idea (that the WHL) is considering; awful. Need 2 zambonis in every rink or else it's a huge delay.” . . . F Keegan Iverson of the Portland Winterhawks and F Blair Oneschuk of the Spokane Chiefs are the first WHL players to draw suspensions this season. Iverson got two games for a checking to the head major against Spokane in Everett on Friday, while Oneschuk got a game for a checking-from-behind major in the same game.

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