Thursday, March 5, 2015

Minimum-wage exemption on way? . . . Hickman gets NHL deal . . . Golden Bears dominate opener

D Nick Ross (Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, 2004-09) has signed a one-year extension with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, he has eight goals and 26 assists in 54 games. . . .
F Mark Santorelli (Chilliwack, 2006-08) has signed a one-year extension with Villach (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). In 40 games this season, he has eight goals and 24 assists.

The WHL was featured in a story on the front page of Thursday’s Seattle Times. That would be the front page of the newspaper, not the front sports page.
The story, by Walker Orenstein of the Times, details the WHL’s dealings with Washington state politicians as it attempts to get an exemption from some labor laws, such as having to pay minimum wage to its players.
“In Olympia, discourse has been one-sided,” Orenstein writes. “House Bill 1930 and Senate Bill 5893 — backed by a bipartisan coalition that includes pro-labor Democrats — passed the House Labor Committee unanimously and the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee without any ‘no’ votes. No opponents testified at either committee hearing. SB 5893 won Senate approval Tuesday by a 47-0 vote.”
It would seem, then, that the WHL will end up getting the exemption it wants.
In an interview with Orenstein, WHL commissioner Ron Robison said: “The new bill will provide the clarity that will remove the uncertainty for our clubs moving forward.”
Orenstein added: “Robison had no estimate of how much paying minimum wage would cost the league. He said at a Senate hearing that before factoring in the cost of paying players, WHL teams are already ‘very challenged to be in a position to continue to operate.’ ”
Orenstein’s complete story is right here.
WHL commissioner Ron Robison has told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that there isn’t much, if anything, wrong with the game the way it’s played in his league.
“We like our game the way it is,” Robison said in an interview. “It's very entertaining and great for the players' development. The quality of our on-ice product is outstanding and continues to get better each season.”
When asked by Nugent-Bowman about attendance being “down in most markets,” Robison replied: “There are markets where attendance is down. But we're pleased overall. All leagues, regardless of the sport, are challenged with attracting fans in-venue. Our teams have done an exceptional job under the circumstances.”
The interview, as it appeared on the newspaper’s website, is right here.
If you’re a stats geek, be forewarned. The WHL is in the dark ages in terms of feeding the modern fan even individual shots on goal and it seems unlikely to change in the near future.
F Tim Traber, who played five full seasons in the WHL (Chilliwack, Victoria, Vancouver, 2009-14), played last season in Switzerland, even though he could have returned to the WHL as a 20-year-old. At the time, Traber says someone from the WHL told him that playing in Switzerland wouldn’t jeopardize his education package. Now, however, Traber has told Rick Westhead that something has changed because he has been told that he no longer is eligible for that education package. . . . Westhead’s story is right here.
Not that long ago, the Vancouver Giants were third in the B.C. Division and it appeared as though they just might there, putting them into a first-round series with the second-place Victoria Royals. However, the Giants now have lost four straight games and have been blanked in three of those. . . . Vancouver has been shutout 12 times in 64 games. . . . Tonight, the Giants are at home to the Western Conference’s top team, the Kelowna Rockets. . . . The game is available via Shaw TV at 7:30 p.m.

F Justin Hickman of the Seattle Thunderbirds has signed an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Boston Bruins. Hickman, 20, played more than four seasons with the Thunderbirds and was their captain this season and last. Hickman, from Kelowna, played only 31 games this season before shoulder problems resulted in his needing surgery. He had 28 points, including nine goals, this season. In 285 games, he had 132 points, 55 of them goals. . . . A free agent, his signing with the Bruins wasn’t a surprise as it was heavily rumoured to have happened in January. . . .
The buzz in the junior B Kootenay International Junior League has Ty Davidson as the next head coach of the Sicamous Eagles. Davidson announced in February that he would be leaving the KIJHL’s Golden Rockets after five seasons as general manager and head coach. At the time, Davidson said he wanted to work closer to his family in Salmon Arm. . . . The Eagles dropped long-time head coach Blair Davidson four games into what turned out to be a five-game first-round playoff loss to the Kamloops Storm. . . .
If the Kootenay Ice is to finish third in the Central Division, it will have to get past the Red Deer Rebels, who visit Cranbrook tonight. The Ice goes into the game seven points in arrears and time is running out. . . . Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman has more right here. . . .
F Tim McGauley of the Brandon Wheat Kings takes a 20-game point streak into tonight’s game against the Raiders in Prince Albert. It’s the longest such streak in the WHL this season and the second-longest active streak in the CHL. F Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters is on a 25-game run. . . .
The U of Alberta Golden Bears opened the CIS Canada West’s best-of-three final with a 5-2 victory over the Calgary Dinos on Thursday night. It was Alberta’s 27th straight playoff victory over Calgary. . . . The game included 156 penalty minutes, 110 of those emanating from 11 misconducts. . . . According to the online game sheet, the Dinos had only nine shots on goal, with Golden Bears G Kurtis Mucha stopping seven of those. . . . Calgary starter Kris Lazaruk stopped 22 of 26 shots, with reliever Jacob DeSerres turning aside 12 of 13. . . . The rosters of both teams are full of ex-WHLers. . . . They’ll play again tonight in Edmonton.


EAST DIVISION: Brandon (8 games remaining) has clinched first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1995-96. The Wheat Kings are tied with Kelowna (8) in the race for first place overall. . . . Regina (9) will finish second in the division. . . . Swift Current (8) is third, six points ahead of Moose Jaw (8). . . . The Warriors also are eight points behind Edmonton (7), which holds down the conference’s second wild-card berth. . . . Prince Albert (9) is six points behind Moose Jaw and 12 points out of a playoff spot.
CENTRAL DIVISION: Calgary (7) is atop the division, two points ahead of Medicine Hat (7). . . . Red Deer (8) is third, seven points behind Medicine Hat and seven ahead of Kootenay (8), which holds the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . Edmonton (7) is two points behind Kootenay.
B.C. DIVISION: Kelowna (8) has clinched first place in the Western Conference. . . . Victoria (8) will finish second. . . . Prince George (8) is third, three points ahead of Vancouver (8) and Kamloops (8). . . . Vancouver and Kamloops are four points behind Tri-City (8), which holds down the conference’s second wild-card berth.
U.S. DIVISION: Everett (8) sits atop the division, four points ahead of Portland (10). . . . Seattle (8) is third, six points behind Portland and seven ahead of Spokane (10). . . . Spokane holds the conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . Spokane is seven points ahead of Tri-City (8), which holds down the conference’s second wild-card spot.


Eastern Conference
Brandon vs. Edmonton
Calgary vs. Kootenay
Regina vs. Swift Current
Medicine Hat vs. Red Deer
Western Conference
Kelowna vs. Tri-City
Everett vs. Spokane
Victoria vs. Prince George
Portland vs. Seattle
(NOTE: Team with home-ice advantage shown first.)


(all times local)
No Games Scheduled.


(all times local)
Brandon at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Lethbridge at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.
Red Deer vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, 7 p.m.
Regina at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Victoria at Prince George, 7 p.m.
Seattle at Portland, 7 p.m.
Spokane at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
Everett vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Kelowna at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.

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