Sunday, September 25, 2016

What to read into openers? Not much . . . Silvertips add a veteran import . . . Child blanks Blades . . . Winterhawks on fire

Two days after the third anniversary of her kidney transplant, Dorothy took part in the Kamloops Kidney Walk for a third time on Sunday.
Dorothy with friends who walked with her on Sunday: Mark
Hunter, Sue and Ron Burt, Tanya Hunter, and Jenn Ruemper,
with Logan and Brooklyn. Dorothy is holding Charlie Hunter
and his brother, Max, is in the stroller.
This one really was special as Dorothy and her friend, Margaret Thompson, were co-honourees. As such, they got to address the crowd before the Walk began. They also were presented with plaques by the Kamloops chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada (B.C. and Yukon Branch) in recognition of their “commitment to supporting others dealing with kidney disease and transplantation.” Both women have been instrumental in getting the Kamloops Kidney Support Group off the ground.
Now here’s where you come in . . . 
Organizers also presented Dorothy with a certificate recognizing her as the top fund-raiser in Kamloops. Thanks to all of you — family, friends and all of our friends in the hockey crowd — she raised $2,486, pushing her three-walk total to almost $8,000.
Thank you all so much for being with us over the past three years. Your support really means a lot.
Since Sept. 23, 2013, I can’t tell you how many hockey games I have been at during which someone has approached me and asked about Dorothy. I come home and tell her that (insert name here) asked about her and her face absolutely lights up. It means a lot to know that people care.
Again, thanks so much.
Whatever you do, don’t read a whole lot into the first bunch of games in the WHL’s regular season.
At a guess, the WHL’s 22 teams played through the first weekend with as many as 80 of their best players in NHL camps.
The Kelowna Rockets, for example, had six players away as they played a home-and-home series with the Kamloops Blazers, who were missing three players. The Blazers won at home, 9-2, on Friday; the Rockets went home and won, 5-1, on Saturday.
Chatting about it after Friday’s game, Kamloops head coach Don Hay looked ahead to the next time, after opening weekend, the Rockets and Blazers will meet, which will be Nov. 1 in Kelowna.
“I think there are going to be a lot of changes. Both teams will look a whole lot different,” Hay said with a chuckle.
That is pretty much the story across the league.
The Calgary Hitmen, with seven players away, had 10 freshmen in their lineup, six of them playing their first WHL game, when they played host to the Kootenay Ice on Friday.
The Prince George Cougars, with six players away, swept a doubleheader from the Royals in Victoria. The Royals were without five skaters who likely will return sometime in the next few days.
“I’m not going to lose too much sleep because of starting 0-2,” Victoria head coach Dave Lowry said to Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist. “If we’re 0-15, give me a call.”
The Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders split two games. Each team was missing five top-end players.
Perhaps the most interesting development came prior to a home-and-home series between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Red Deer Rebels.
The Oil Kings had two players — D Aaron Irving and F Lane Bauer — in camp with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, who happen to own that city’s WHL franchise.
The Oilers returned both players in time for them to play in Red Deer on Friday. Irving scored 26 seconds into OT — Bauer had the secondary assist — to give Edmonton a 3-2 victory.
One night later, before 18,102 fans at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Bauer’s shootout goal gave the Oil Kings a 4-3 victory. In regulation time, Bauer had a goal and an assist, while Irving drew two assists.
The Rebels, meanwhile, were without five of their top players, none of whom are in camp with the Oilers.
Of course, that begs the question: Would the Oilers have returned Red Deer players to the Rebels in time for the opening weekend had there been any in their camp?
There was news late Sunday of at least five WHLers on their way back from NHL camps.
F Hudson Elynuik, who will turn 19 on Dec. 10, will be rejoining the Spokane Chiefs after being with the Carolina Hurricanes, who selected him in the third round of the NHL’s 2016 draft. . . . The Calgary Flames returned four players to their WHL teams. . . . F Brayden Burke, 19, is returning to the Lethbridge Hurricanes after being with the Flames as a free-agent invitee. . . . D Aaron Hyman, 18, is rejoining the Calgary Hitmen after being with the Flames on a free-agent basis. . . . F Matt Phillips is headed back to the Victoria Royals. Phillips, 18, was a sixth-round pick by the Flames in 2016. . . . G Nick Schneider, 19, who signed with the Flames a year ago, has been returned to the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Even later on Sunday came word that the Detroit Red Wings had returned three free-agent skaters to WHL teams. . . . F Luke Coleman, 18, is on his way back to the Prince Albert Raiders. . . .  D Dylan Doghlan, 18, has been returned to the Tri-City Americans. . . . F Jeff de Wit, 18, will be rejoining the Red Deer Rebels.
The Everett Silvertips have acquired Austrian F Dominic Zwerger, 20, from the Spokane Chiefs for a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. . . . Zwerger played in 189 regular-season
games with the Chiefs, putting up 60 goals and 59 assists. He led the Chiefs with 27 goals last season. . . . However, Zwerger is a two-spotter — a 20-year-old import. Moving him out allows the Chiefs to get down the maximums of two imports and three 20-year-olds. They now are prepared to go with Czech freshmen forwards Ondrej Najman and Pavel Kousal. Najman is 18; Kousal is to turn 18 on Nov. 14. . . . Spokane’s 20s now are G Jayden Sittler, F Markson Bechtold and F Keanu Yamamoto. . . . Spokane’s roster now is at 26, including two goaltenders and 15 forwards. . . . Acquiring Zwerger left Everett with three imports, the other two being Slovakian F Mario Mucka, who turns 18 on Nov. 10, and Finnish F Eetu Tuulola, 18. Because of a rule prohibiting the trading of first-year import players, the Silvertips had to release one and the odd man out was Mucka, who had one assist in one game after recording one assist in six exhibition games. Tuulola had two goals and an assist in four exhibition games. A sixth-round pick by Calgary in the NHL’s 2016 draft, Tuulola is in camp with the Flames. . . . The acquisition of Zwerger also gets the Silvertips to three 20-year-olds, the others being F Graham Millar and F Lucas Skrumeda.
The Kootenay Ice got its roster down to 25 players on Sunday by releasing three 16-year-olds — F Eli Lieffers, D Bobby Russell and D Loeden Schaufler. . . . Lieffers, 16, from Saskatoon, will return to the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . Russell, 16, is from Langley, B.C. A sixth-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft, he will go back to the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget League. . . . Schaufler, from Dewinton, Alta., was a third-round pick in 2015. He played last season with the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds, but the Ice hasn’t yet found a place for him this season.
The Saskatoon Blades all wore jerseys in honour of Gordie
Howe during Sunday's pregame warmup.
(Photo: Darren Steinke)
It was Thank You, Mr. Hockey Day in Saskatoon on Sunday as the ashes of Gordie Howe and his wife, Colleen, were interred near a statue of Howe at SaskTel Centre, the home of the Blades. Steve Hogle, the Blades’ president, is to be commended for all that went into this celebration of lives that included bringing in the legendary Bob Cole to be the event’s host.
Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, who is a wonderful wordsmith and one of Canada’s best-kept secrets, has his take right here. There is a photo gallery at the bottom of Mitchell’s piece.
With Vin Scully nearing the finish line, Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register writes:
“The sad irony is that baseball clubs have learned nothing from Scully. He stands for nothing they want.
“He is rigidly non-partisan and, most nights, discusses opposing players more than Dodgers. Scully finds anecdotes that you’ve never heard before, even in the information age. When someone mentioned that he must have great researchers, Scully shook his head. He does it all himself, right to the finish line.
“Nor is Scully interested in umpiring. He doesn’t like the superimposed strike zones that networks use. ‘The umpire has a hard enough job as it is,’ he said.”
Whicker’s piece — and it’s a good read — is right here.


Prior to Saturday’s home-opener, the Kelowna Rockets dedicated the game to the memory of Norbert Heinzelmann and his family. Heinzelmann, a longtime off-ice official, died on Sept. 2 at the age of 57. He had been a volunteer with the Rockets since the team’s first game in Kelowna in 1995. The Rockets beat the Kamloops Blazers, 5-1, in the Saturday game. . . . 
You may recall that the start of Saturday’s game between the Red Deer Rebels and Oil Kings in Edmonton was delayed 90 minutes after an hydraulic lift malfunctioned on the ice surface. You may be wondering what that machine was doing on the ice. A tweet from Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun: “Reason there was a hydraulic cherry picker on the ice before warm up? Photographer putting camera in scoreboard.”
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At Saskatoon, G Travis Child stopped 28 shots in recording his first WHL shutout as the Swift Current Broncos beat the Blades, 6-0. . . . Saskatoon had gone into Swift Current and dumped the Broncos 5-1 on Friday night. . . . The shutout came in Child’s 52nd appearance over three seasons, all with the Broncos. He’s a 19-year-old from Killam, Alta. . . . The Broncos got two goals and an assist from Calvin Spencer, while Finnish F Aleksi Heponiemi had four assists. F Brandan Arnold and F Tyler Steenbergen each had a goal and an assist. . . . Saskatoon G Brock Hamm stopped 25 shots. . . . The Broncos were 2-5 in the PP; the Blades were 0-5. . . . Announced attendance: 6,359.
At Portland, F Skyler McKenzie scored twice to help the Winterhawks to a 7-3 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . It was the second time in two nights that the Winterhawks (2-0-0) scored seven goals on home ice. They beat the Seattle Thunderbirds 7-3 on Saturday night. . . . Portland scored the game’s first three goals and led 3-0 at 13:24 of the first period. The Americans got it to 3-2 by 11:10 of the second, but Portland took control with the next two goals. . . . D Henri Jokiharju, F Evan Weinger and F Ryan Hughes each had a goal and an assist for Portland, while Ty Kolle and F Cody Glass had two assists apiece. . . . Tri-City (1-1-0) got a goal and an assist from F Tyler Sandhu and two assists from each of Dalton Yorke and Juuso Valimaki. F Michael Rasmussen scored his fifth goal in two games. . . . G Cole Kehler stopped 26 shots for Portland, four fewer than Tri-City’s Beck Warm. . . . The Winterhawks were 1-2 on the PP; the Americans were 1-3. . . . Announced attendance: 4,836.

MONDAY GAMES (all times local):

No Games Scheduled.

TUESDAY GAME (all times local):

Prince George vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m.

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