Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hurricanes to stay the course . . . Hockey loses a giant . . . Wenatchee changes leagues

F Konstantin Pushkarev (Calgary, 2004-05) signed a two-year, two-way extension with Barys Astana (Kazakhstan, KHL). This season, he had nine goals and eight assists in 54 games. . . .
F Alex Leavitt (Swift Current, Everett, 2003-05) signed a one-year contract with the Braehead Clan Glasgow (Scotland, UK Elite). This season, with the Ravensburg Towerstars (Germany, DEL2), he had 49 points, including 19 goals, in 44 games. . . .
F Justin Kirsch (Calgary, Moose Jaw, 2009-13) signed a one-year extension with Löwen Frankfurt (Germany, DEL2). This season, with the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL), he had one assist in four games. He had one goal in four games with the Knoxville Ice Bears (SPHL), and he had seven goals and 18 assists in 31 games with Löwen Frankfurt, which he joined on Dec. 3. Kirsch has dual Canadian-German citizenship. . . .
F Tomáš Netík (Medicine Hat, 2000-01) signed a one-year contract with Sparta Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), he had 11 goals and 13 assists in 56 games.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes will remain one of four community-owned teams in the WHL.
Despite pressure from WHL commissioner Ron Robison, who has pushed for shareholders to sell the financially troubled team, those attending a meeting on Monday night voted not to put the team up for sale with the intention of selling to private owners.

The approval of 75 per cent of voters was needed to continue the process towards a possible sale. When the votes were counted, 68 per cent had voted that way.
The vote was done by secret ballot, and not a show of hands.
As Pat Siedlecki, the former radio voice of the Hurricanes and ClearSky Radio’s corporate news director, tweeted immediately after the vote: “With this decision by shareholders tonight, it essentially means the issue of selling the Hurricanes to private owners is now dead.” (Siedlecki’s blog, including a report from last night, is right here.)
Early in May, Robison met with shareholders. According to Paul Kingsmith of Global-TV, Robsion said: “It’s not to say that this community organization can’t get things turned around. But we think, when you look at the franchise moving forward, that private interests would be in the best interest of the club.”
On that visit, Robison met with about 160 shareholders.
Last night, there were 270 shareholders representing 681 shares in attendance.

Also from last night’s meeting:
* In search of cash, shareholders voted to sell as many as 2,000 premium shares valued at $1,000 each.
* It was revealed that the Hurricanes have about 1,100 shareholders who hold about 2,500 shares.
* Financials from this season have not yet been audited, so the media in attendance was asked not to report figures. However, it was stressed that the team suffered significant losses this season. “The team is still far from stable,” Kingsmith wrote in a story that is right here. “It has lost more than $1-million over the last five years, with another six-figure deficit from this past season announced to shareholders through unaudited financial numbers.”
* The Hurricanes have sold about 1,650 season-tickets for 2015-16, with the goal set at 2,500. This season, they had about 1,300 season-ticket holders.
* It was revealed that only 20 per cent of shareholders also are season-ticket holders.
The Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos also are owned by community shareholders.
During the Hurricanes' meeting, general manager Peter Anholt told shareholders that he has signed F Jordy Bellerive, who was the second overall selection in the 2014 bantam draft.
Bellerive, from North Vancouver, will be eligible for the NHL’s 2017 draft. This season, he had 49 points, including 34 goals, in 27 games with the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s White Prep team. In his bantam draft season, he had 114 points, 61 of them goals, in 49 games with the North Shore Winter Club’s bantam AAA team. He is the younger brother of F Matt  Bellerive, who played out his junior eligibility this season with the Vancouver Giants.
Meanwhile, it is believed that the Hurricanes will announce the signing of a new head coach on Thursday, at which time they also will reveal more player signings.
A new coach will take over from Anholt, who replaced the fired Drake Berehowsky in mid-season.


The hockey family took a hit on Monday with the death of Frank McKinnon, who contributed as much to the game as anyone. McKinnon was 81 when he died in Calgary where he had lived for the past few years with
his wife, Pat. . . . McKinnon, who was named a Member of the Order of Canada in February, was the commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (1992-2002). He also was a Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association executive for years and years, and served as president for five years. A teacher and principal in Carman, Man., he also was president of the Carman-Dufferin Minor Hockey Association. . . . From a MJHL news release: “He also left his mark beyond Manitoba. As a trustee, he helped create the Centennial Cup (now RBC Cup) in 1971. He was a member of the congress of the International Ice Hockey Federation and part of the committee that organized the first IIHF World Junior Championship in 1974. In 1979, McKinnon became the first chairman of the board of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (now Hockey Canada), a post he would hold until 1982.” . . . He was a recipient of the Gordon Juckes Award, Hockey Canada’s volunteer-of-the-year award and Hockey Canada’s Order of Merit. . . . As well, he served on the boards of the Sports Federation of Canada and the Canadian Olympic Association. . . . McKinnon is a life member of Hockey Canada, the Canadian Junior Hockey League and Hockey Manitoba. He has been inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association Hall of Fame. . . . Beyond all of that, McKinnon was one of the finest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
The Prince George Cougars have signed their first three selections from the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft, with all of them from North Vancouver and off the roster at the North Shore Winter Club. . . . F Jackson Leppard, from North Vancouver, was taken eighth overall. He had 89 points, including 46 goals, this season. . . . D Jonas Harkins, also from North Vancouver, was taken in the second round. He had 12 points, three of them goals, this season. He is the son of Cougars GM Todd Harkins and the brother of Cougars F Jansen Harkins. . . . F Tyler Ho was taken in the third round. He had 87 points, including 30 goals, this season. . . . All three players were key contributors to NSWC’s 2015 Western Canadian bantam AAA championship.


News 1130, a Vancouver radio station, reported Monday morning that the Vancouver Giants “interviewed” former Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins “two weeks ago and he has strong interest in the job.” . . . Last month, it was reported that the Giants were courting Ted Nolan, who was fired as the Buffalo Sabres’ head coach when their season ended. . . . Eakins, 48, was in his second season as the Oilers’ head coach when he was fired in December. The Oilers were 36-63-14 during his time there. He had joined the Oilers from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, having done well enough there that he was thought of as a real up-and-comer. . . . Eakins has never coached junior hockey, having moved directly from his playing career into a pro-coaching career. . . . Via text, Eakins, who has two years left on his Oilers contract, told Edmonton Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson: “Just because it’s on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s true.”. . . . It does seem that the Giants again are looking for a ‘name’ coach. Having missed the playoffs two of the last three seasons and not having been out of the first round since 2010, one wonders: Why don’t the Giants hire a young coach who can grow with a young team? Or do fans really buy tickets to watch the head coach perform?
BTW, please feel free to check out our latest poll over there on the right, and vote on who you think will be the next head coach of the Giants.

It appears as though at least four WHLers will be re-entering the NHL draft after not being signed. . . . F Jackson Houck of the Vancouver Giants was taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, while D Eric Roy of the Brandon Wheat Kings went to the Calgary Flames in the fifth round. . . . Portland freelancer Scott Sepich reported late Monday that the Washington Capitals aren’t likely to sign Winterhawks D Blake Heinrich. He was a fifth-round pick from the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers in 2013. . . . Later, Sepich reported that the Arizona Coyotes had “removed G Brendan Burke from their prospects roster so it appears they didn't sign him and have have forfeited his rights.” . . . Burke was a sixth-round pick. . . . Roy played out his junior eligibility this season; Houck, Heinrich and Burke are eligible to play as 20-year-olds in 2015-16. . . . NHL teams had until June 1 to sign players selected from junior teams in the 2013 draft.
The Edmonton Oil Kings made it official on Monday — G Alec Dillon has chosen to play for them, rather than go the NCAA route. The Los Angeles Kings selected him in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2014 draft. Dillon played this season with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, where he was a second-team all-star. The Oil Kings had acquired his rights from the Swift Current Broncos and now will give up a 2016 fourth-round bantam draft pick. . . . Brian Swane of the Edmonton Sun has more right here.
NAHLThe BCHL announced Monday that the Wenatchee, Wash., Wild will become its 17th franchise when the 2015-16 season begins play. The announcement was made at a news conference in Wenatchee that apparently was attended by 160 people. . . . The Wild had played in the NAHL since 2008-09. . . . From a BCHL news release: The Wild has had “a winning record in each of its seven seasons of existence and this season had six players on its roster committed to NCAA Div. I programs. Playing out of Wenatchee’s Town Toyota Center, the team averages about 3,000 fans at home games.” . . . Bliss Littler has completed three seasons as the team’s general manager and head coach. He has coached junior hockey for 22 seasons. . . . The Bellingham, Wash., Ice Hawks (1990-95) were the BCHL’s last U.S.-based team. . . . If you are wondering, Wenatchee is 236 miles from Vancouver, B.C., and 642 miles from Prince George, the home of the BCHL’s Spruce Kings. . . . Brian Wiebe has more right here on the Wenatchee announcement.
BCHLThe BCHL’s Penticton Vees confirmed Monday that D Dante Fabbro and F Tyson Jost, a pair of potential first-round selections in the NHL’s 2016 draft, will return for their sophomore seasons. . . . The Everett Silvertips took Jost with the seventh overall selection in the 2013 bantam draft. The Seattle Thunderbirds selected Fabbro with the next pick. . . . This season, Jost had 45 points, 23 of them goals, in 46 games and added 10 goals in 21 playoff games. . . . Fabbro had 33 points in 44 games and added 15 points in 21 playoff games.
In a junior A deal announced Monday, G Christopher Tai, who has WHL experience, had his rights moved from the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express to the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats as the future considerations from an earlier deal. In that deal, made on Oct. 24, the Express acquired Tai from the Bobcats for futures. . . . Yes, Tai has been traded for himself. . . . Tai, a 19-year-old from Delta, B.C., made WHL stops in Lethbridge, Brandon and Medicine Hat (2012-14). . . . The Bobcats are the host team for the 2016 RBC Cup tournament.

F Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers took a puck to the head in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series. He hasn’t played since. . . . “I couldn't talk for a while,” he told reports on Monday, “had a contusion, some blood in my brain. That affects a lot. Now I go to speech therapy. I'm getting much better. I couldn't say a word for four days. I feel much better.” . . . The Rangers claim Zuccarello didn't suffer a concussion. . . . There’s more right here.
“Former Blackhawks center and Lightning coach Steve Ludzik is suing the NHL, alleging the league failed to warn him of the significant risk of brain damage during his 10-year career,” writes Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. “The suit, which was filed Monday by the Chicago law firm Corboy & Demetrio — the same firm representing the estates of former Hawks defenseman Steve Montador and former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson — claims the NHL ‘allowed and encouraged Ludzik, after suffering concussions, to return to play in the same game and/or practice.’ ” . . . Ludzik now suffers with Parkinson’s disease, something he claims is a result of concussion-related issues. . . . Kuc’s story is right here.

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