Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WHL talks 50th anniversary season . . . Holt, Kennedy head to Swift Current . . . Merkley among U of L recruits

G Tyler Plante (Brandon, 2003-07) signed a one-year contract with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite). Last season, with Lørenskog (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he was 18-9, 2.36, .918 with two shutouts in 27 games. He was third in the league in save percentage. . . .
F Mike Piluso (Vancouver, Edmonton, 2006-11) signed a one-year contract with Hamburger SV (Germany, Oberliga). Last season, with Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (ACAA), he had 46 points, including 23 goals, in 27 games. He was second in the league’s scoring race. He also was the playoff MVP.

The WHL’s annual general meeting wrapped up in Vancouver on Wednesday and, if you go by the news release
issued by the league office, hardly anything of note happened.
At least nothing happened unless it had to do with the fact that the 2015-16 season will be the WHL’s 50th anniversary season.
From the news release:
* The WHL season will open Sept. 24 with the Regina Pats visiting the Moose Jaw Warriors. Why open in Moose Jaw? “The East Division is considered the birthplace of the WHL,” according to the news release, “and Moose Jaw is the home of the first ever WHL championship team.”
* The WHL will announce it’s top 50 players of all-time at some point during the season. Fans will help determine that list, while a select panel of long-time WHL observers also will take part.
* In September, the WHL will publish a 50th anniversary book that will “detail the history of the league as well as its clubs, builders, players and key members.”
* Each of the WHL’s 22 teams will play host to one game that will celebrate the 50th season and “honour the history of its franchise and alumni.”
* As well, the Subway Super Series — Team WHL against a touring Russian side — will be played in Kelowna on Nov. 9 and Kamloops on Nov. 10. . . . The CHL Top Prospects Game is to be played in Vancouver on Jan. 28. . . . Red Deer is the host city for the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament, May 19-29.
Unfortunately, there was nothing in the WHL’s news release detailing whether the pooh-bahs discussed such matters as dealing with mental health through education, efforts to prevent concussions, or possible rule changes.
Nor does the news release indicate when the WHL will release its regular-season schedule. Last year, the WHL released its regular-season schedule two weeks after its AGM.
If you are wondering about a playoff format, the one that was in use this spring will be used for at least two more seasons. The WHL announced that format after its 2015 AGM, saying that it would be in place for three seasons.
“The Western Hockey League is prepared to ‘exhaust every avenue’ to keep the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, but commissioner Ron Robison reaffirmed there is a demand from other markets, including in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland, for a franchise if relocation becomes a reality,” writes Cam Tucker of Metro Vancouver. . . . That story is right here.
The WHL announced Wednesday that former player Greg Gardner is its manager of education services. According to a news release, Gardner “will be responsible to administer the WHL league-wide education program policies and procedures, including monitoring the academic progress” of all players through each team’s education advisor. . . . After playing five seasons (2003-08) with the Prince George Cougars, Gardner spent five seasons with the U of Alberta Golden Bears. He played the last two seasons with the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles. At the U of A, he earned a bachelor's degree in physical education with a concentration in sports performance.
Todd Holt and Sheldon Kennedy, a pair of former Swift Current Broncos forwards who were sexually abused by GM/head coach Graham James, will be in Swift Current on Friday to support the latest ex-player to come forward with accusations about James. . . . Bill Graveland of The Canadian Press has more right here.
There is a definite WHL flavour to the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns’ recruits for the 2015-16 season. Head coach Spiros Anastas, who is heading into his second season, announced the commitment of 12 players, including seven with WHL experience. . . . F Bryson Gore (Moose Jaw), D Tyler Hansen (Kamloops), F Sam McKechnie (Lethbridge, Seattle, Saskatoon), F Jay Merkley (Lethbridge, Swift Current), D Blake Orban (Vancouver, Edmonton), F Brett Roulston (Prince George), and F Dalton Sward (Vancouver). . . . Hansen is returning to the ice after leaving the Kamloops Blazers following the 2012-13 season in order to serve a two-year mission with the Church of Latter Day Saints. . . . McKechnie and Orban are second-generation Pronghorns, their fathers, Dana and Scott, having also played at the U of L. . . . Merkley is eligible to return to the WHL for his 20-year-old season, but obviously has decided to go to school.
Things got a little weird in Major League Baseball on Tuesday. How weird? Well, I would suggest it was one of the goofiest days in MLB history. Jayston Stark of recaps what truly was a bizarre day right here.


AJHLTom Keca has taken over as the general manager and head coach of the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Keca, 44, has previous experience with the Oil Barons, as an assistant coach for nine seasons (2000-06, 2011-14). He also spent four seasons (2006-10) as head coach of the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats. . . . Keca, who also played for the Oil Barons, takes over from Curtis Hunt, who resigned and signed on as general manager with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.
USA Hockey has rounded out the coaching staff for its national junior team. Earlier, it named former NHL coach Ron Wilson as head coach. Joining him as assistant coaches are former NHL players Chris Chelios and Danton Cole, along with Kevin Reiter. . . . Since his retirement as a player, Chelios has worked as an advisor to hockey operations with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. . . . Cole is preparing for his sixth season as a head coach in the U.S. National Team Development Program. . . . Reiter has completed two seasons as the NTDP’s goaltending coach. . . . The U.S. will hold its summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., Aug. 1-8. . . . The 2016 World Junior Championship will be decided in Helsinki, Finland, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.

F Klarc Wilson (Brandon, Edmonton, Prince George, 2009-2014) will attend NAIT and play for the Ooks. Wilson, 22, is from Edmonton. He split last season between the ECHL’s Indy Fuel and Stockton Thunder.

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