Thursday, April 27, 2017

Governors approve Ice's new owners ... WHL on Shaw nears end ... Lawsuit against OHL, teams certified


Scattershoot

The Chynoweth family has been involved in the WHL for 45 consecutive years, a run that ended Thursday when the board of governors approved the sale of the Kootenay Ice, the franchise that the Chynoweths had been trying to sell since 2011.
There was a time when the WHL would have announced the transfer of ownership at a news conference and perhaps someone would have spoken about how much the family has meant to the WHL. These days, the WHL prefers to do things via news release posted on its website, which is what happened yesterday.
Well, allow this aging writer who still has ink in his veins to say “Thank You” to Linda, Dean and Jeff Chynoweth for their time and the many conversations, and heartfelt thanks for sharing your husband and father with us for all those years.
The late Ed Chynoweth was the WHL’s president for something like 23 years, starting in 1972. He left the WHL office to spend a season as GM of the Calgary Wranglers, returned, then later purchased an expansion franchise, the Edmonton Ice, that he later relocated to Cranbrook, B.C.
Back in the day, it wasn’t unusual for a writer to call Ed at home, no matter the time of night. It also wasn’t unusual for that same writer to get a call from Ed, who disagreed, sometimes politely, with something that had been written.
Ed rarely, if ever, visited a WHL city without meeting the local media, even if just to acknowledge our existence.
It hasn’t been the same since he left us, and it won’t be same now, without the Chynoweths owning the Ice. Perhaps Jeff will end up working in another team’s front office, unless, of course, he’s had enough of the WHL. Say what you want, though, he always answered his phone, returned calls and responded to texts, until near the end when he would have had to deny that a sale was near when it was close to happening.
Anyway . . . thanks to the first family of the WHL. May the next chapter be a good one.
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How could the NHL end up with a playoff schedule that had both its eastern series being played at the same time on Thursday night? Hey, Gary Bettman, I couldn’t decide which game to watch, so I spent the evening with baseball.
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A friend sent me a note on Thursday afternoon. With the WHL playoffs more than half over, the 2016-17 WHL Official Guide and Record Book now is available for download. You will find it right here.
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The WHL’s conference finals are scheduled to resume tonight with the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds meeting in Kent, Wash., and the Regina Pats and the Hurricanes clashing in Lethbridge. Each of the series is 2-2.
Seattle fans can forget about seeing D Ethan Bear for a while. Taking Note has been told that he suffered a broken hand when he blocked a shot late in Game 3 on Tuesday in Kelowna.
The Rockets lost D James Hilsendager, who has been terrific in these playoffs, to an undisclosed injury in the first period of Game 4 on Wednesday. He didn’t return, so you would have to think he’s doubtful for tonight and perhaps longer. His absence means the pairings of Cal Foote/Gordie Ballhorn and Lucas Johansen/Devante Stephens will get a workout.
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The St. Louis Cardinals struggle to catch the ball, throw the ball and run the bases. Still, they were able to sweep a Thursday doubleheader from the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, who blew a 4-0 lead in the opener. If you missed it, the Blue Jays, leading 4-2, were one strike away from victory when they gave up a game-tying home run. They then lost on a grand slam in the 11th. The Blue Jays now are 6-16. Ohh, this is going to be a long season for Gibby and his guys.
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F Martin Růžička (Everett, Lethbridge, 2003-05) has signed a one-year extension with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, he had nine goals and 13 assists in 33 games.
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As expected, the WHL’s board of governors approved the sale of the Kootenay Ice to Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, a pair of Winnipeggers, on Thursday.
Fettes and Cockell have purchased the entire franchise, ending the Chynoweth family’s involvement in the WHL after 45 years.
The late Ed Chynoweth was the face of the WHL for a long time, especially during a 23-year run as the league’s president. In 1995, Chynoweth left the WHL office to set up the Ice as an expansion franchise in Edmonton. After two seasons in Edmonton, the franchise relocated to Cranbrook, B.C., for the 1998-99 season.
Chynoweth died in 2008 and his son, Jeff, has been the Ice’s president and general manager.
Fettes is the founder of 24-7 Intouch, which has more than 8,000 employees in call centres, according to a WHL news release, “in 14 sites around the world including Canada, United States, Guatemala, Jamaica, and the Philippines.”
Cockell played three seasons (1996-99) in the WHL as a goaltender, spending time with the Saskataoon Blades, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina Pats and Spokane Chiefs. He had been working with True North Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the NHL’s Winnipeg Moose, as vice-president, corporate partnerships. Prior to that, Cockell was the chief customer officer at 24-7 Intouch.
Cockell now is the Ice’s president and GM.


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WHL on Shaw

When the WHL’s championship final concludes next month, the WHL on Shaw will sign off for good, ending a 13-season relationship.
Corus Entertainment and Shaw Communications announced Wednesday that Shaw will close stations in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Corus Entertainment, which acquired Shaw‘s media arm in a deal last year, will continue to operate Shaw stations in Victoria, Kelowna and Saskatoon, each of which is home at a WHL franchise.
About 70 people are expected to lose their jobs, while the WHL on Shaw also will be a casualty.
The deal between Shaw and the WHL had one season (2017-18) remaining. However, a  source familiar with the situation has told Taking Note that the WHL has taken a $300,000 buyout.
“It’s easier for Shaw rather than pay out $750,000 in production costs,” the source explained, adding that the WHL was “in line for $375,000 in the next year of the deal.”
In light of the demise of the WHL on Shaw, it could be that Access7, a community TV station in Regina, expands its coverage of the Regina Pats and, as the source said, “may become the motor that drives WHL coverage to the remaining community stations.”
Access7 has been providing coverage of the Pats’ playoff games this spring.
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An Ontario Superior Court Justice has certified a class-action lawsuit brought by former OHL players against the league in an attempt to force teams to pay minimum wage.
Justice Paul Perell made the ruling Thursday in Toronto, something that will allow the three-year-old lawsuit to move forward.
A similar action filed in Calgary against the WHL was heard before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Hall, who has yet to rule. It is anticipated that there will be a decision in the next month.
As for Thursday’s ruling, Rick Westhead, a senior reporter with TSN, writes:
“Justice Perell wrote that he certified the case despite the warnings from the OHL that the ‘allegedly selfish class action would bring on the eve of destruction for hockey players.’ ”
The OHL has 20 days in which to file an appeal.
Westhead’s story is right here.
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F Nick Merkley now holds the Kelowna Rockets’ record for most career playoff points. Merkley had a goal and an assist on Wednesday as the Rockets beat the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-2, to even the Western Conference final, 2-2. . . . Merkley, who will turn 20 on May 23, now has 64 points, including 50 assists, in 55 playoff games. The previous record had been held by F Tyson Baillie, who put up 63 points, including 27 goals, in 64 games.
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F Mitch Skapski, who played in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, Saskatoon Blades and Victoria Royals, will attend Ryerson U and play hockey for the Rams. Skapski, from Abbotsford, B.C., split the past two seasons between the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Cowichan Valley Capitals, totalling 68 points in 109 games. He played 143 WHL games (2012-15), scoring six goals and adding 13 assists. He was a fourth-round selection by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2011 WHL bantam draft.
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The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes fired Doug Soetaert on Thursday, after one season as the general manager of their AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners. Soetaert is a former WHL goaltender (Edmonton Oil Kings, 1971-75), who spent six seasons (2006-12) as the Everett Silvertips’ vice-president of hockey operations and general manager. Soetaert had spent 2015-16 as the Coyotes’ western pro scout. . . . The Roadrunners were an expansion team this season and finished 29-31-8, good for sixth in the eight-team Pacific Division. They didn’t make the playoffs. . . . The Roadrunners’ head coach is Mark Lamb, a former GM/head coach of the Swift Current Broncos.
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Coaching

The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves have hired Darren Martens as an assistant coach. Martens, from Mossbank, Sask., has ample playing and coaching experience. From a news release: “A graduate of the SJHL, Martens went on to play in the CIS, UHL, ECHL and six seasons in Germany. At the completion of his playing career, Darren transitioned into coaching. He has coached all levels of hockey, from bantam to junior B, and also spent two seasons with the Briercrest Clippers of the ACAC.” . . . Martens will work alongside head coach Evan Vossen and assistant Terry Hunt.
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THURSDAY’S GAMES:

No Games Scheduled.
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FRIDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Lethbridge at Regina, 7 p.m. (Series tied, 2-2)
Kelowna vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:35 p.m. (Series tied, 2-2)

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