MONDAY’S GAME:No Game Scheduled.
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was in Lethbridge on Monday evening to speak to Hurricanes’ shareholders. The gathering was closed to the public and to the media.
Afterwards, Robison told local media that he had told shareholders that “given the team’s current financial position, I recommend they strongly consider private ownership.”
The franchise has been headed in that direction since its last annual general meeting. At that meeting, a motion was put forward asking that shareholders entertain a sale. Next up will be a special meeting at which shareholders will vote on whether to hold a vote on the sale. The date for that meeting will be set sometime in the next three weeks.
Paul Kingsmith of Global TV has more right here.
One paragraph in Kingsmith’s report reads: “Should shareholders choose to sell, they would have a say in who the team is sold to, although final approval rests with the WHL’s board of governors. Robison stresses the league favours local owners, and points to the Kamloops Blazers as the ideal template of how a team can successfully transition from community to private ownership.”
The Blazers were sold by shareholders to Tom Gaglardi, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor prior to the 2007-08 season. While those five all have ties to Kamloops, it would be a reach to call any of them “local.” Recchi is the only one of the five who was born in Kamloops, but his appearances here have lessened with time.
Also, perhaps Robison has forgotten how messy things were around Kamloops in the months leading up to the sale. Sheesh! I seem to recall both parties appearing in B.C. Supreme Court before all the smoke had cleared. And we won’t even get into the hullabaloo that took place when Mike Priestner, now the owner of the Saskatoon Blades, got involved by making an offer to purchase the Blazers. At one point, Jim Pattison — yes, that Jim Pattison! — was said to be contemplating making an offer.
Perhaps the commissioner has forgotten that the Blazers’ shareholders voted during the summer of 2006 not to sell the franchise. At that time, it wasn’t a case of not selling to the Gaglardi group; it was a case of not wanting to sell to anyone.
Over the winter of 2006-07, a lot of shares changed hands and ended up with folks who voted to sell to the Gaglardi group at a meeting during the summer of 2007.
Under new ownership, the Blazers have struggled, on and off the ice, to find an identity. They have missed the playoffs three of the last five seasons, including each of the last two. They were eliminated four times in the first round, lost out once in the second round, and reached the Western Conference final once. They have had six head coaches — seven if you count Guy Charron twice — and two interim head coaches in eight seasons.
In 2006-07, the last season under community ownership, the average attendance was 4,787. In 2007-08, the first season under new ownership, it was 4,562. It slid to 4,132, before reaching 4,825 in 2012-13 when the Blazers had a 99-point regular season. However, attendance slipped to 4,148 the following season. This season’s average was 3,994.
The one really good thing that came out of the sale is that the Kamloops Blazers Sports Society, which sold the franchise, has invested the money it received from the sale and now puts money into the community through its Sports Legacy Fund.
Since 2009, the society has issued $2,158,287 in grants to 84 organizations. Earlier this year, 27 organizations shared in $325,000 in grants.
For more on the terrific work being done by the society, click right here.
Under terms of the sale of the Blazers, the society retained the right to buy back the franchise at the original sale price should the Gaglardi group ever choose to sell.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes have signed general manager Peter Anholt to a three-year contract. Anholt took over as GM/head coach on Dec. 10, with the Hurricanes having fired GM Brad Robson and head coach Drake Berehowsky. . . . Anholt is adamant that he won’t return as head coach, and that he will hire a coach after the bantam draft. . . . “I certainly have a type of coach I’m looking for,” Anholt said on Monday. “I would like it to be a teacher, somebody that’s going to relate well with the young players. And it would be nice to have experience in our league.” . . . If that, indeed, is what Anholt is looking for, you have to wonder if he might take a look at someone like Victoria Royals assistant coach Enio Sacilotto. . . . Paul Kingsmith of Global TV has more on the Anholt signing right here.
The WHL has revealed that it has returned Portland’s 2017 first-round bantam draft pick to the Winterhawks. . . . On Nov. 28, 2012, the WHL ruled that the Winterhawks wouldn’t be permitted to take part in the first five rounds of the 2013 bantam draft and also took away first-round selections in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. As well, the Winterhawks were fined $200,000 and GM/head coach Mike Johnston was suspended for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs. . . . The Winterhawks were ruled to have broken player-benefit rules, including flying in parents to watch games, supplying some players with cell phones and paying some players off-season training allowances. . . . The last paragraph of Monday’s news release reads: “The WHL and the Portland Winterhawks will not be making any further comment on this matter.” . . . While the Winterhawks wouldn’t make any official comment, one insider told Taking Note that this was “total vindication.”
Doug Kerslake, who played with the 1970-71 Edmonton Oil Kings who reached the Memorial Cup, has died. Kerslake, who was born in Saskatoon, was 65. . . . There is an obituary right here.
F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Portland Winterhawks will join Denmark at the IIHF World championship tournament that is being played in Czech Republic. Bjorkstrand, whose NHL rights belong to the Columbus Blue Jackets, scored 76 goals in 76 games this season. He had 63 goals in 59 regular-season games and followed that up with 13 goals in 17 playoff games.
The Kamloops Blazers have signed G Dylan Ferguson, who was an eighth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. Ferguson, from Lantzville, B.C., will turn 17 on Sept. 20. He played the last two seasons for the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds, who play out of Athol Murray College in Wilcox, Sask. This season, he was 17-7-0, 2.70, .907. . . . One would think that Connor Ingram, 18, goes into training camp in August as the No. 1 goaltender. Barring a transaction, that would leave Ferguson to scrap with returnee Cole Kehler, who turns 18 on Dec. 17, for the backup position. Ingram got into 52 games this season, while Kehler played in 21.
“The Crown wants a ‘safety plan’ in place to protect the fiancée of a former Kamloops Blazers defenceman facing a domestic-assault allegation,” writes Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week. “Cory Crichton was charged last week with assault causing bodily harm in relation to an April 19 altercation with his fiancée.” . . . Crichton, who is from Kamloops, played four games with the Blazers in 1987-88 and 55 in 1988-89. . . . Petruk’s story is right here.
Have you ever wondered what suggestions are made when a team goes public in its search for a new nickname? In this case, it’s the U of North Dakota, which is looking to replace Fighting Sioux as its nickname. . . . Chris Peters of cbssports.com has more right here, and a lot of it isn’t pretty.
No doubt you have tuned into a sporting event, either on radio or TV, and had one of the broadcasters check in with his “Keys to the Game.” And no doubt you have reacted with: “No kidding!” . . . Well, Fox Sports San Diego has taken “Keys to the Game” to a new level. . . . Check it out right here and you will never again look at “Keys to the Game” in the same light.
THE COACHING GAME:Colin Chaulk is the new head coach of the ECHL’s Brampton Beast. Chaulk, 38, spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. . . . Chaulk replaces Brent Hughes, who was fired after a 23-46-3 season. This was the Beast’s first season in the ECHL.
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