Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Tuesday Ramblings

Back from a little over a week of holidays, and just thought I'd try to catch up on some news.

- I heard something big happened a couple of hours down the road last week! One of the questions asked of me was what impact the NHL returning to Winnipeg may have on the Wheat Kings. My answer, is that it will likely have minimal impact. First, individual game tickets will be few and far between for the first 3-5 years of the Winnipeg Fill-in-the-Blanks. In addition, hockey fans who want to head to a game or two will soon find out the cost of attending one NHL game will likely be equal to or exceed the cost of a Wheat Kings' season ticket ($325).

- Now that Winnipeg has an NHL team, do you think Toronto will want one?

- Interesting to note that if (when?) Kevin Cheveldayoff is named general manager, Winnipeg's NHL team will have a former Wheat King be its GM when it exited the NHL (John Paddock) and when it re-entered the NHL.

- According to CJOB's Brian Munz, don't be surprised to hear this week Craig Heisinger to be named the Vice President of Hockey Operations or some title along those lines. That would mean Cheveldayoff reports to him.

- By the way, considering the close relationship the Wheat Kings have with True North Sports & Entertainment, don't be surprised if something NHL related shows up in Brandon, maybe even a pre-season game!! Remember, Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon served on the committee with many of the TNSE's major players when they attempted to bring the 2010 World Junior Championship to Winnipeg/Manitoba that was eventually beat out in the bidding process by Saskatchewan.

- Speaking of Wheat Kings' season tickets, a release posted on the club's website last Friday indicated the team's season ticket total to date was 987. Fans purchasing Season Tickets by the June 14 deadline will pay last year’s prices of $325 for adults and $175 for youth. Beginning on June 15th, Adult season tickets will cost $350.

- The WHL's Annual General Meeting is set for Calgary on June 14-15. The topic of head hits will likely be discussed at length, and is seems it always is by every hockey league on the planet these days. However, another interesting topic might be predatory hits. Those are the one that aren't necessarily to the head, but I can't be the only one who thinks taking a run at a player while he's engaged with another player should be against the rules. If you need examples, feel free to check of Raffi Torres' highlight video.

- After the WHL AGM, next comes the Eastern Conference scheduling meeting. That'll take place June 20, with teams likely announce their tentative 2011-2012 schedule later that same week.

- Make it Five. Prince George Cougars have joined Kelowna, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Saskatoon as teams bidding for the 2013 Memorial Cup.  WHL will announce 3 - 4 Finalists on June 15 with the final selection will be announced on October 13.

- Hockey Canada and the CJHL (Canadian Junior A Hockey League) apparently aren't on the same page. I was surprised to learn when talking to MJHL Commissioner Kim Davis this week that Hockey Canada's new zero tolerance measures for all head contact or checks in minor, female, junior and senior hockey doesn't apply to Junior A in Western Canada. Davis says they will continue to follow their Junior A Supplement guideline that was unveiled prior to the start of last season. You can check out the supplement at http://players.mjhlhockey.ca/page.aspx?page_id=185

- With Craig Hartsburg leaving Everett to join the coaching staff of the NHL's Calgary Flames, there are now three coaching vacancies in the WHL (Everett, Seattle and Moose Jaw). One would think those positions will be filled before the end of the month.

- In Regina, GM Chad Lang is being criticized by some media for not clarifying the status of head coach Curtis Hunt and director of scouting Todd Ripplinger. Brings to mind a conversation I had with Kelly McCrimmon a few years back, a year or two after he took over as the Wheat Kings' head coach. In basic terms, I stated I wasn't going to ask him at the end of every season if he was returning the following year as coach, stating basically that he was the coach until such time as he announced he wasn't.

- You have to feel bad for former Chilliwack Bruins' play-by-play man Randy Merkely, who seems to have gotten a raw deal when the team moved to Victoria. Merkely made inquiries to the Victoria No-Names about their broadcasting position, but did not get any answers until about 30 minutes before to was announced the club had a new play-by-play man. Too bad Merkely wouldn't have had at least a chance to continue serving in the role with the franchise.

- The WHL Ride for the Kids kicked off Monday. More than 35 WHL and NHL Alumni are participating in the inaugural event this week in support of the Children's Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. The trip will cover over 650 kilometres and will have stops in all five WHL centers in Saskatchewan.

- The Saskatoon Blades signed a new three-year lease with Credit Union Centre late last month; the Regina Pats are continuing lease negotiations with Evraz Place and the Moose Jaw Warriors signed a five-year agreement for their new facility back in April. The Brandon Wheat Kings' current lease with the Keystone Centre expires at the end of the 2011-2012 season. There's been some preliminary discussion, but don't expect anything to be finalized soon. The Keystone Centre is currently without a general manager, and it doesn't look like one will be in place anytime soon. An ad advertising the position appeared in the Brandon Sun just this past Saturday.

- No matter who wins the Stanley Cup, it'll have some Westman flavour. Neepawa's Shane Hnidy is a member of the Bruins and Nesbitt's Aaron Rome is a member of the Canucks. In addition, Mason Raymond is son-in-law to former Wheat King Doug Murray.

- Can you tell yet that former CKLQ broadcaster and HNIC play-by-play man Jim Hughson used to be the Canucks PBP guy?

- The Calder Cup Final continues tonight when the Houston Aeros host the Binghamton Senators. The Sens lead the AHL Final 3-2. Brandon product Carson McMillan (3 G, 2 A in 20 GP) and Snowflake product Justin Falk (0 G, 5 A in 23 GP) are both prominent players with the Aeros.

- The Saint John Sea Dogs could, conceivably, have four players selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Jonathan Huberdeau, Nathan Beaulieu, Tomas Jurco and Zack Phillips were all ranked in the Top 20 of North American Skaters in the final rankings by NHL Central Scouting. The last time a CHL team had four players drafted in the first round was the 1979 Brandon Wheat Kings. That year, Laurie Boschman (#9, Toronto), Brian Propp (#14, Philadelphia), Brad McCrimmon (#15, Boston) and Ray Allison (#18, Hartford) were the Wheat Kings chosen in the first round.

- Speaking of Brad McCrimmon, did you miss the news he signed on as head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League.

- Brandon product Joel Edmundson of the Moose Jaw Warriors was one of 100 or so prospects to take part in the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto last week. Edmundson spoke to 21 of the 30 NHL teams, and came away with the second longest wingspan of the top prospects. Ranked 33rd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Edmundson will likely be selected in the second or third round of the NHL Entry Draft when it's held June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

- An open public information symposium on preventing concussions in sports will be held in Brandon tomorrow night (June 8). The session is set to begin at 7 p.m. at the Victoria Inn, with admission free. The keynote speaker is athletic therapist and researcher Glen Bergeron, while the panel of athletes will include Moose Jaw Warriors' forward and Brandon product Brayden Cuthbert.

- Are their 15 minutes of fame up yet? Yes, I'm looking at you Brigitte DePape and Vancouver's Green Men. At least it's been a while since I've seen or heard about those two guys in Toronto that masquerade as umpires and annoy the crap out of you when you're watching a Blue Jays' game.

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