Nice to welcome @Kelowna_Rockets to Brandon to play our @bdnwheatkings Two great teams! And thanks for flying #YBR 😉 pic.twitter.com/JgW33wUCxy— shannon (@ShannonMannall) May 6, 2015
WEDNESDAY’S GAME:No Game Scheduled.
The WHL’s championship final, for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, begins Friday in Brandon with the Wheat Kings meeting the Kelowna Rockets. . . .
Each team is 12-3 in these playoffs. . . . Brandon has won each of its series in five games; Kelowna has won in four, five and six games, which, if you are into omens, might indicate the Rockets will win the final in seven. . . . The Wheat Kings have scored 65 goals in their 15 games; the Rockets have scored 65. . . . Brandon has surrendered 34 goals; Kelowna 39. . . . Kelowna fell behind in five of the six games in its 4-2 Western Conference final victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . As for injuries, Brandon F Reid Duke, F Tanner Kaspick and D Kale Clague have been practising this week. Duke was injured in Game 5 of a second-round series. Kaspick and Clague went down in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final. . . . The Rockets will be without F Tyrell Goulbourne, who underwent surgery last week to repair a skate cut to his left calf. F Rourke Chartier, a 48-goal scorer in the regular season, is day-to-day after missing the last three games against Portland. . . . Here’s an interesting tidbit from Brandon Sun sports editor Rob Henderson: “The combined 226 points that Brandon and Kelowna racked up this season are more than any other pair of finalists except 1979 when the Wheat Kings (with a league-record 125 points) topped the Portland Winterhawks (111) for the WHL title.”
Last week, you will recall, Avenir Sports & Entertainment, purchased majority ownership of the Kloten Flyers, a team that players in the Switzerland’s NL A. Avenir is owned by Bill Gallacher, who also owns the Portland Winterhawks. Perhaps you are wondering that the move might mean to the Winterhawks. If so, here’s what Winterhawks president Doug Piper told Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune:
"When Bill bought the Winterhawks (in 2008), his intention was to also buy an NHL franchise. Those opportunities have come and gone, so we started thinking about the European market. We've always loved Swiss players — the three who have played for us have been fantastic. Switzerland is a great hockey market, almost Canadian-like in its appreciation with the game.
"The WHL allows each team only two imports, but the ones we've had have been impactful. Switzerland has a sophisticated youth program. We've always been tuned into Europe, but we feel this helps us get even more eyes over there and be in line to find more Niederreiter-like talent. The more we understand the world as a whole and start looking at it that way, we felt it was a wise thing to do for the future.”
The three Swiss players to have been with the Winterhawks are Nino Niederreiter, Sven Baertschi and Luca Sbisa.
Ron Robison, the commissioner of the WHL, was in Lethbridge on Monday, where he met with shareholders of the Hurricanes and urged them to sell the franchise to private owners. . . . On Tuesday, he told Les Lazaruk, the radio voice of the Saskatoon Blades, that the Kootenay Ice and Prince Albert Raiders need help if they are to remain where they are in the long term.
Robison, on the Ice: “The attendance in (Cranbrook) is not where we need it to be. We're addressing that and hopeful that we can get some solution in place here very soon. But, the reality is that in order to continue to operate in markets such as Cranbrook, the Kootenay Ice have to draw more people . . . have to get better support in that community. Otherwise, we may have no alternative but to relocate the franchise.”
Robison, on the Raiders: “There's no question that in order for the Prince Albert Raiders to be viable long term, a new facility is required. I think the city acknowledges that. The Raiders certainly understand that moving forward and I think it would be a major asset to the community. They want to preserve their franchise and, certainly, discussions are underway in that regard.”
Lazaruk’s story is right here.
Brett Smith of the Prince Albert Daily Herald followed up on that story by talking with Raiders officials. That story is right here.
The WHL bantam draft is scheduled to be held today in Calgary. When it comes to coverage, the day belongs to Alan Caldwell over at Small Thoughts at Large. So check out his blog for all the happenings. . . . If you click right here, you will find his spreadsheet that features all of the WHL trades that involved draft picks.
Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reports that Pats F Braden Christoffer, 20, has signed with the Oklahoma City Barons, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. According to Harder, Christoffer, the Pats’ captain, isn’t expected to join the Barons now; rather, he will report next season when the franchise has moved to Bakersfield, Calif. He also will play for the Oilers in a prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C., in September.
The WHL held its awards luncheon in Calgary on Wednesday. For a look at all the winners, click right here.
During the WHL’s awards luncheon, former Regina Pats owner Russ Parker was honoured with the 2014-15 Governors Award. Parker and his wife, Diane, purchased the Pats from the WHL in 1995. They sold the franchise prior to this season.
THE COACHING GAME:Moe Mantha, a former NHL defenceman, has signed on as the first GM/head coach of the French River Rapids, who will begin play in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League next season. The 54-year-old Mantha is a native of Sturgeon Falls, Ont., which is a short drive from Noelville, the home of the Rapids. Mantha had been working as the head coach of the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors. . . . Randy Russon of Sault This Week has more right here.
Ryan Donald has signed on as assistant GM and assistant coach with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. He had been the head coach and assistant GM of the Woodstock Slammers of the junior A Maritime Hockey League. He is a graduate of Yale who captain the Bulldogs. He also played in the AJHL with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders and Camrose Kodiaks. In Trail, he will be working with GM/head coach Nick Deschenes and assistant coaches Craig Clare and Barry Zanier.
Some 5'9" dude from Spokane is leading the #NHLPlayoffs in goals. Didn't see that coming when he was a @chiefshockey player— Chad Balcom (@hawkeyblog) May 7, 2015
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