Thursday, September 18, 2014

Broncos put up some big numbers . . . Arling era draws to close

The Swift Current Broncos’ board of directors has revealed that the franchise showed a profit of $197,244 for 2013-14.
The announcement was made Thursday night at the team’s annual general meeting.
“It’s been a long road from where we started,” said board chairman Liam Choo Foo in a news release, noting that the starting point four years ago was a $200,000 deficit.
The Broncos play in the smallest market in the 60-team Canadian Hockey League.
“We’ve seen continual growth and we’re optimistic about where we’re going,” he continued, “but by no means are we done working towards where we need to get to”.
Later, Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Broncos, tweeted: “The bad news is that attendance was down (59) a game, but good walk-ups paying higher prices and higher concession sales made up for that.”
The Broncos averaged 2,119 fans per game last season, good for 21st in a 22-team league. That was down from 2,178 in 2012-13.
The Broncos have two new directors -- Shane Lacasse, an accountant/partner at Stark and Marsh Chartered Accountants LLP and former Broncos F Jeff Kirwan (1993-98). He is the crop inputs manager at SWT.
The meeting also marked the end of an era as the board announced that “Joe Arling . . . will be stepping down after almost 20 years of dedicated service.”
Say it ain’t so, Joe!
While Arling has been with the Broncos, in one role or another, including chairman, for almost 20 years, he has been around the WHL for a whole lot longer than that.
He played a bit for the Saskatoon Blades in 1970-71, but made a much bigger mark as a coach, working on the staffs of the Billings Bighorns and the Blades.
And a whole lot of hockey people know him as the owner of the Swift Motel. Oh, the stories that have been told around that table!
The WHL, which most times follows the suit of the NHL when it comes to rule changes, has banned the spin-o-rama move from the shootout and from penalty shots during regulation or overtime.
A spin-o-rama is defined as a “360-degree turn.”
Thankfully, the WHL also has done away with the dry scrape prior to the onset of overtime that it had experimented with during the exhibition season. Instead, a dry scrape will be done through the middle of the ice only prior to a shootout, as in recent seasons.
There also have been a number of changes regarding faceoffs that ensue from pucks ending up out of play.
Now . . . faceoffs will be held in the attacking zone if a shot at the net deflects off a post or crossbar and out of play; if a shot at the goal breaks a pane of glass; if a shot at the net goes off the side of the net and out of play; if a shot at the net goes off the dasher or glass and out of play; if a shot at the net is deflected out of play by a teammate; and if a shot at the net becomes wedged in or on the exterior of that net.
Prior to this, everything hinged on the last player to have touched the puck. If an attacking player had the last touch, the faceoff was moved outside the zone; if a defending player or the goaltender had the last touch, the faceoff was inside the zone.
Among other rule changes announced by the WHL on Thursday:
1. Teams will change ends prior to the start of the five-minute OT period.
2. Should a game need a shootout, teams again will change ends before it begins.
3. Tripping will be called if a player dives and trips an attacking player, regardless of whether he makes contact with the puck.
The complete news release is right here.
I had been hoping the WHL would do more to crack down on checking from behind and checks to the head. But, unfortunately . . . crickets.
I fear that checking-from-behind minors have become just another penalty, like slashing, elbowing and cross-checking.
During the 66-game exhibition season, referees handed out 29 checking-from-behind minor penalties and one major penalty. That should be considered unacceptable, and it’s time something more was done to get this nasty play out of the game.
Maybe it’s time for the WHL to do what USA Hockey has done and endorse the Look-Up Line. Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times describes it as “an orange warning track painted on the ice designed to reduce paralyzing neck injuries that could result from collisions into the boards.” That line is 40 inches wide.
As Klein wrote, “Its goal is to warn players to use caution when giving and receiving checks in the danger area close to the boards.”
During those same WHL exhibition games, there were 13 minor penalties and one major penalty called for headshots. Again, that is just too many.
BTW, there were 30 fighting majors handed out during those 66 games. Of course, each fighting major carried with it an automatic game misconduct.
That works out to less than one fight (0.45) every two games.
Last season, according to the numbers at, there were 679 fights during the regular season, which works out to 0.86 per game.
Tack on the automatic game misconduct, then, and it would appear that fighting in the WHL is cut almost in half.
Maybe it’s time the WHL pooh-bahs gave that some thought.
The WHL also issued a reminder about its new playoff format, something that it first announced in June.
If you need a refresher, the news release that was issued yesterday is right here.

Over the past few days, The Oregonian has been counting down the 25 greatest players in the history of the Portland Winterhawks. Portland freelancer Scott Sepich unveils No. 1 right here, while a complete list is right here. . . . Lists like these are always subjective and they’re usually done in the hopes of prompting discussion. So just let me say that I would have had Perry Turnbull a lot higher than No. 13 and, yes, Troy Mick would have been higher than No. 22. If Dennis Holland is No. 2, and that’s fine, then Mick has to be in the top 10.
Most, if not all, WHL teams will be missing key players as the regular season opens tonight. Those players are in NHL training camps. Daniel Nugent-Bowman points out that it really isn’t fair to the WHL teams because the points on the line at this time of the season can be awfully important come March. . . . He also ponders what can be done about this situation. . . . His column is right here.
BTW, the Calgary Hitmen have nine players off their roster at NHL camps. It isn’t known if any of those players will be back as they begin the franchise’s 20th season on Saturday against the visiting Red Deer Rebels. But it’s safe to say that the Hitmen roster a month from now will look somewhat different than what it is right now.
Laurence Heinen has more right here from the Calgary Herald.
If you are a WHL fan, you know that there are numerous regular-season previews available in print and on the Internet. That includes the Eastern and Western Conference previews that have appeared on this blog.
But they all pale compared to the preview put together by Cody Nickolet over at the WHL From Above blog.
Give it a look right here.
Here’s an interesting note from James Shewaga, the sports editor of the Brandon Sun:
“The boys from Brandon give the Wheat Kings plenty of homegrown talent on this year’s roster. In fact, if they all stick this season, Brandonites could fill six of the 12 forward spots in the lineup on any given night, with Tyler Coulter, Brett Kitt, Tanner Kaspick, Duncan Campbell, Ty Lewis (currently injured) and Jesse Gabrielle, whose family moved to the Wheat City a year ago. The ‘Brandon’ Wheat Kings, indeed.”
While things certainly appear to be looking up in Swift Current, that’s not the case in Prince Albert where Raiders GM Bruno Campese said Wednesday that the team lost money in 2014, something that will be confirmed at the annual general meeting on Sept. 29.
Darryl Mills, the managing editor of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, addresses the Raiders’ situation right here, and he compares it when Winnipeg lost the Jets to Phoenix.

The Calgary Flames have returned D Eric Roy to the Brandon Wheat Kings. But he has a shoulder injury and could be out for two weeks. . . . The Saskatoon Blades were missing D Ayrton Nikkel and F Wyatt Sloboshan at practice on Thursday. Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports that both are ill and questionable for tonight’s opener in Prince Albert against the Raiders. . . .
With the teachers’ strike having been settled in B.C., and school scheduled to resume on Monday, the Vancouver Giants have announced “that in celebration . . . any school-aged child who is accompanied by an adult to Saturday’s season-opener against the Victoria Royals will get into the game for free.” Visit the Giants’ website for details. . . .
Bobby Henderson, the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen, has agreed to a five-year contract extension that takes him through 2018-19. Last season, his second with the Rivermen, they went 37-13-3-5, for the BCHL’s best regular-season record. . . . The Portland Winterhawks go into the regular season missing two defencemen -- Blake Heinrich has a brain injury, while Josh Hanson is nursing a broken knuckle.

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