Thursday, December 4, 2014

WHL teams going outside for coaches . . . Hockey dead at TRU? . . . Mykitiuk back in WHL

F Codey Burki (Brandon, 2002-07) has been loaned by Olten (Switzerland, NL B) to Fribourg-Gottéron (Switzerland, NL A) through Dec. 23. Burki, who has dual Canadian-Swiss citizenship, had 17 points, including four goals, in 19 games with Olten this season. . . .
F Roman Tvrdon (Spokane, 1999-2001) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with the Guildford Flames (England, Premier). Last season, with Považská Bystrica (Slovakia, 1. Liga), he had a goal and four assists in nine games; he also had 12 goals and nine assists in 21 games with Oświęcim (Poland, Ekstraliga). . . .
There was an interesting game in Gävle, Sweden, between home team Brynäs and Linköping in the SHL on Thursday night. Shots on goal in the first period were 24-0 for Linköping. The score was 0-0. . . .  Linköping went on to win 2-1 in a shootout. Final shots on goal were 51-20 for Linköping. . . . F Greg Scott (Seattle, 2005-09) scored for Brynäs with 1:22 left to send the game to OT. . . . Columnist Stisse Åberg, writing  in Gefle Dagblad, the local Gävle newspaper: "I was close, very close, to losing interest entirely . . . for the game. Why should I care -- when Brynäs decides to spend a troubled half hour in their own zone."


When the Vancouver Giants introduced Claude Noel as the fifth head coach in franchise history on Monday, it marked the 12th coaching change in the WHL since the end of last season.
In only two instances did the team in question promote an assistant coach to head coach.
The Giants, in fact, have gone outside their organization for their last two head coaches as they work to find a replacement for Don Hay, their head coach for the previous 10 seasons. Troy Ward lasted 25 games; the Noel era begins tonight against the visiting Portland Winterhawks.
Hay, of course, was let out of his contract with a year remaining on it, and he returned to Kamloops as the Blazers’ head coach. The Blazers twice overlooked associate coach Mark Ferner -- they brought Guy Charron down from the front office to replace Dave Hunchak when the latter disappeared in January; then they brought Hay back as head coach. Those moves may or may not have had anything to do with Ferner’s decision to leave the Blazers earlier this season and return to the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers as general manager and head coach.
The Calgary Hitmen (Mark French), Moose Jaw Warriors (Tim Hunter), Portland (Jamie Kompon), Prince Albert Raiders (Marc Habscheid), Regina Pats (John Paddock), Saskatoon Blades (Bob Woods) and Tri-City Americans (Mike Williamson) all reached outside their organizations when making a move to a new head coach.
Only the Edmonton Oil Kings and Kelowna Rockets chose to promote from within.
The Oil Kings, the defending Memorial Cup champions, lost head coach Derek Laxdal to the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars. Edmonton promptly moved associate coach Steve Hamilton into the head coach’s office. Hamilton, whose father, Al, played for the original Oil Kings, had spent four seasons as Laxdal’s lead assistant.
In Kelowna, the Rockets had to replace Ryan Huska, who now is the head coach of the Adirondack Flames, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Huska was the Rockets’ head coach for seven seasons; Lambert, a former Swift Current Broncos defenceman, rode shotgun for five of those seasons.
“When I hired Dan Lambert, I wanted him to learn how to be a head coach,” Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ owner and general manager, told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. “We wouldn’t let other teams have access to him because we were paying him to learn to be our head coach.”
Each of the last three times Hamilton has had to find a new head coach, he has promoted from within. When Habscheid left after 2003-04, it was Jeff Truitt’s turn to move up. When Truitt left, Huska was given his opportunity.
And now it’s Lambert’s turn.
Considering the success that the Rockets have had, you are free to wonder why other WHL teams don’t use that same strategy. Or are they trying to and just not having the same success?
At a glance, there are eight WHL head coaches who have worked in the league as assistant coaches. Four of those are Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon), Ryan McGill (Edmonton Ice), Hay and Williamson, each of whom was an assistant back in the day. The other four are Dave Lowry (Victoria), who was an assistant with the Hitmen for three seasons (2005-08); Shaun Clouston, who was an assistant in Medicine Hat for six seasons and moved up when Willie Desjardins left after 2009-10; Steve Hamilton and Lambert.
By the way, Daniel Nugent-Bowman’s complete story on Bruce Hamilton and the way he operates the Kelowna Rockets is right here.
Interestingly, Hamilton takes the blame for the way the Rockets flamed out in the playoffs last spring.
What happened?
Hamilton makes no bones about the fact that he wants “good guys” on his roster. But . . .
“Last year we made a fatal mistake,” Hamilton admitted to Nugent-Bowman. “We brought in (Marek) Tvrdon thinking he was going to jump-start us. He jump-started us the wrong way.
“That’s all on my shoulders. He wasn’t a good enough guy to be the difference in games.”

Ken Dryden was the late Jean Beliveau’s last roommate; Beliveau was Dryden’s first. . . . Right here, Dryden remembers “a very nice man.”
Roy MacGregor, Canada’s greatest essayist at this point in time, gets to the essence of the late Jean Beliveau in a wonderful piece from The Globe and Mail. That essay is right here and it’s more than worth your time.
Chris Daniels of King 5 News in Seattle reported Thursday night that Washington state regulators “have expanded their investigation into the (WHL) and its member franchises over possible violations of child labour laws.” . . . The WHL has four franchises in Washington -- the Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans -- and they are the subject of this investigation. . . . Daniels’ report is right here.
Trevor Bast, who has spent the last while working in the hopes of re-establishing a hockey program with Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, reports that the door has been closed.
On Thursday afternoon, Bast took part in a conference call with Dr. Alan Shaver, TRU’s president, Matt Vilovick, the school’s vice-president finance/administration, and athletic director Ken Olynyk.
“By the end of the call,” Bast told Taking Note, “I was advised TRU will not support the revival of the men’s hockey team.”
Bast said the TRU officials “cited recent bad history with hockey, poor academic performance and behaviour with non-varsity club teams in general . . . as well as a lack of desire to support hockey financially and clerically, among other things.”
TRU killed the hockey program prior to this season, citing the team’s financial situation, among other things. The team wasn’t a varsity team, but rather was operated by a non-profit society. At the end, it was around $50,000 in debt.
“Athletic director Ken Olynyk did state by email at one point a concern we were going to take away sponsorship that is currently directed to TRU athletics,” Bast said. “I suppose you can't blame him as we were gaining momentum and folks in Kamloops do like hockey.”
Bast admitted that “the front door to re-entry to the BCIHL has been slammed shut.”
But the Victoria resident, whose son was to have played on the Wolfpack this season, isn’t about to give up.
“We now will turn our time and energy away from the TRU athletic department and explore other ways of entering the BCIHL,” he said. “Collegiate hockey in Kamloops can work and the BCIHL is a league worth fighting to be in. As well, the BCIHL is a league that deserves to exist and thrive.
“At this time, if there is anyone out there who can help this cause financially as a sponsor or a donor, please don’t wait for me to find you.”
If you are interested, feel free to email Bast at

According to Regan Bartel, the radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, F Rourke Chartier has reached 30 goals quicker than any player in franchise history. F Brett McLean (1997-98) got there in his 30th game. Chartier reached 30 on Wednesday night, in his 28th game. . . .
The Kelowna Rockets and Saskatoon Blades have been fined $250 apiece for the battling goaltenders during their Wednesday night game. Kelowna’s Jake Morrissey and Nik Amundrud of the visiting Blades scrapped at centre ice during the third period of the Rockets’ 5-1 victory. . . .
G Jared Rathjen, 20, who was placed on waivers by the Prince George Cougars earlier this week, has rejoined the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines. He was 6-4-1/2.99/.916 with the Wolverines in 2012-13. . . . A native of Prince George, he got into three games with the Cougars before getting caught up in the 20-year-old numbers game. . . . He also has played with the Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals, and was in camp prior to this season with the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . .
The Everett Silvertips have added F Jake Mykitiuk, 19, to their roster. He spent last season and the first part of this season in the AJHL, after spending two seasons with the Prince George Cougars. In 126 WHL games, he put up 22 points, including seven goals. . . . This season, with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints, he had 23 points, 10 of them goals, in 31 games. . . . Mykitiuk proves Everett with some depth up front, especially with F Dawson Leedahl (knee) and F Logan Aasman (undisclosed) on the shelf. . . .
The Moose Jaw Warriors are preparing to play three games in Alberta in fewer than 48 hours this weekend. Once again, the Warriors are having to juggle their defence due to injuries. Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has more right here.

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