Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nanaimo on one WHL schedule ... Blazers turn to business community ... Giants still hurting

F Jaroslav Vlach (Prince George, 2009-11) has signed a two-year contract extension with Liberec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, he has two goals and five assists in 29 games with Liberec. He also had one assist in five games while on loan to Benátky nad Jizerou (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). . . .
F Robin Kovář (Vancouver, Regina, 2001-04) has signed for the rest of this season with the Swindon Wildcats (England, Premier). This season, he had 18 goals and 29 assists in 34 games with the Manchester Phoenix (England, Premier) before being released on Jan. 9 for financial reasons.
The WHL is in the process of preparing two schedules for the 2017-18 regular season, one that would include the Kootenay Ice and one that would have that franchise in Nanaimo.
Taking Note learned Thursday that the schedule that includes Nanaimo would feature two 11-team
conferences, whereas the Eastern Conference now has 12 teams and the Western Conference has 10.
Voters in Nanaimo are scheduled to go to the polls, likely on March 11, for a referendum. The question on the ballot will be:
“Are you in favour of the City of Nanaimo Council adopting Loan Authorization Bylaw 2017 No. 7237 which will authorize Council to borrow a sum not exceeding $80,000,000, repayable over a period of no more than 20 years, for the development and construction of an event centre that will include an ice arena and other related entertainment, cultural and recreation facilities?”
While preparations for that have been ongoing, the city also has been talking to the WHL about acquiring a franchise for the new facility, should it get the go-ahead from voters.
It seems obvious that Kootenay is the franchise in question as the Chynoweth family has had a ‘for sale’ sticker on it since 2011.
Should the ‘Yes’ side win the Nanaimo referendum, it is anticipated that a WHL team would play out of the Frank Crane Arena for at least two seasons while a new facility is being built. The Frank Crane Arena, which is the home of the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers, seats around 2,400.
What isn’t clear is who would own the Ice were the franchise to relocate. However, the WHL has been thirsting to get a team into Nanaimo, something that would allow teams to travel to Vancouver Island and make stops there and in Victoria. That alone should increase interest in the franchise.
As they try to find their place in the community, the Kamloops Blazers have announced via a news release the formation of a nine-person advisory board comprising eight men and one woman from the local business community.
The chairman is Norm Daley of the accounting firm Daley & Company. Also on the board are Garth Buchko of NL Broadcasting, the Blazers’ long-time broadcast rights holder; Monica Dickinson of Tourism Kamloops; Steve Earl of Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott; Rob James of RJames Western Star Freightliner; Yves Lacasse of KGHM-Ajax; Jim Lightbody of the B.C. Lottery Corporation; Byron McCorkell of the city’s parks, recreation and culture department; and Rob Zimmer of the Zimmer AutoGroup.
According to a news release, “The advisory board will work with the hockey club to build new business relationships, enhance the game night experience and expand the hockey club’s fan base.”
While the Blazers are in second place in the B.C. Division, with a 29-17-3 record, their attendance continues to sputter. In fact, it has done a lot of that since the franchise went from being community-owned to private ownership during the summer of 2007. Tom Gaglardi, who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars, owns 51 per cent of the Blazers, while former Kamloops players Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor own the rest.
This season, through 26 home games, the Blazers are averaging an announced attendance of 3,626. Last season, their final average attendance was 3,769. 
In 2007-08, the first season under this ownership group, the average was 4,562. That figure topped out at 4,825 for 2012-13.
Of the 30 smallest announced crowds in the history of the Blazers’ home arena — what now is the Sandman Centre opened for 1992-93 — 26 have occurred since Jan. 28, 2014.
The Stars, under Gaglardi’s ownership, have an ownership advisory board.
“The advice and guidance the Stars have received from business leaders in Dallas has been immeasurable,” Gaglardi said in the news release. “We think we can create a similar model in Kamloops.”
The Vancouver Giants remain without F Tyler Benson and D Darian Skeoch as they prepare for a weekend tripleheader with the Victoria Royals. Benson has missed 10 games with what originally was referred to as a minor injury, while Skeoch has sat out 18 straight with an ankle issue. . . . Vancouver D Matt Barberis remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury, but F Ty Ronning and F Tyler Popowich, both of whom have been bothered by the flu, are set to return. . . . The Giants and Royals will meet tonight (Friday) in Langley, B.C., before playing Saturday and Sunday in Victoria. . . . Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province has more right here.
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The Regina Pats should have their top two goaltenders available at the same time tonight for the first time since Nov. 20. . . . Starter Tyler Brown has missed five games with an undisclosed injury. . . . Jordan Hollett missed 22 games after suffering a high ankle sprain. He returned for a 6-5 victory over the host Swift Current Broncos on Saturday, but was rested the following day. . . . The Pats are scheduled to play two games this weekend — in Calgary against the Hitmen tonight and in Red Deer against the Rebels on Saturday.
With F Brett Clayton having returned from an undisclosed injury, the Portland Winterhawks have dropped F Ty Westgard, 19, from their roster. Westgard, who was acquired from the Victoria Royals early in the season, is pointless in five games with the Winterhawks. From White Rock, B.C., he has nine points, three of them goals, in 22 games with the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles. . . . Clayton, 18, has a goal and an assist in 19 games with the Winterhawks. Last season, he had a goal and two assists in 57 games. . . . Clayton returned to Portland’s lineup on Tuesday after not playing since Dec. 31.
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The Prince George Cougars have signed F Max Kryski, 16, to a WHL contract. He is the younger brother of F Jake Kryski, 18, who has played with the Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets, and now is with the Calgary Hitmen. . . . Max, from Kelowna, was added to the Cougars’ protected list in December. This season, he has 18 goals and 23 assists in 27 games with the Kelowna-based Okanagan Rockets of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. . . .
The Everett Silvertips have signed G Dustin Wolf, 15, to a WHL contract. Wolf, who is from Tustin, Calif., was a fifth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. He is playing for the U-16 Los Angeles Jr. Kings. In 18 games, he is 10-5-3, 1.63, .941. . . . 
The Portland Winterhawks have moved a March 3 game against the Vancouver Giants from the Moda Center to Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It will start at 7 p.m. . . . The Giants also are to play in Vancouver on March 4. That game also will be played at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but will start at 6 p.m. Originally, it was to begin at 2 p.m. . . .
F Noah Prokop, a 17-year-old from Highlands Ranch, Colo., has committed to attend the U of Nebraska-Omaha for 2019-20. Prokop was a seventh-round selection by the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . He is in his second season at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. This season, with the midget prep team, he has 34 points, including 14 goals, in 39 games.



No Games Scheduled.

FRIDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Regina at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Portland at Everett, 7:35 p.m.
Kamloops at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Spokane vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Saskatoon at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Lethbridge at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Prince George at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
Seattle vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Victoria vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7:30 p.m.

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